It never snows down here in Cardiff. Or at least until recently it never seemed to. This last decade has seen just a few light dustings here and there, a couple of inches on the ground for a day or so. Every winter has been a picture of me flicking through Instagram, seething with jealousy at the good folk of Eastern Europe and the great North American continent as they capture stunning vistas of ice-bound Chicago, frost-bitten Warsaw, and teeth-chattering Calgary. Sure, they might be knee deep in cold misery but it's a picturesque misery, damn it!
X-Pro2 with the 16mm f/1.4 & 50mm f/2 / The X100F with the WCL-X100
Something of a surprise then to wake up to that eerie, muffled and magical silence of a heavy snowfall. I drew back the curtains and there it was, a glorious blanket of a good foot or two of snow, drifts piling up high against car doors, my phone vibrating with reports of ice floes drifting down the River Taff…
Staying in wasn’t an option. I put on my sturdy hiking boots, my thermals and my hitherto-never-worn lumberjack hat and plunged out into the brilliant white beyond. The traditional shot of sweeping frozen landscapes didn’t really interest me… I was more fascinated by the challenge of trying to make certain alleyways and driveways of my neighbourhood look as if they were from snow-blasted Minnesota. I snuck a pair of headphones under my toasty ear flaps and crunched my way through the snowy waste to the sound of Carter Burwell’s appropriately bleak Fargo soundtrack.
My greatest envy of America is how uncluttered it can be. The United Kingdom is so blighted with parked cars, sign-posts and empty cans of Red Bull rolling along the pavements that it’s hard to reduce a packed urban scene into something striking. I usually find myself photographing the same few open junctions again and again. Now I’d awoken to find that a great simplicity had fallen, with a canvas of white under a slate sky that allowed just a few elements of colour and shape to poke through.
I wanted to seek out shots that evoked the chill silent air, the soft satisfying crump of snow underfoot, the beat of the city frozen to a crawl. I don’t have much experience of shooting in the snow, but I knew the look I wanted. I wanted what colour there was to be vivid amidst the white; to find real slashes of frozen blues, tart reds and exploding yellows. To try and make the mundane beautiful, where there’s something striking about a curled up carpet dumped in an alleyway, the whirl of its rolled up ends crisp with frost, peeking out from under a blanket of snow.
This experiment in winter wanderlust lasted two days of numb fingers and chilled toes, punctuated by emergency rest-stops at coffee shops to fill my hypothermic frame with scalding coffee. The temperature fell to a bitter minus twelve when the wind-chill set in. Everything was gridlocked. It was the strangest start to March – the first day of spring, the oddest St. David’s Day here in Wales - but I loved every minute of it. Two days and a sudden thaw later and it was all gone, and I could scarce believe it had happened.
Only now, looking out my window, I can see it's started snowing again...
The second harvest from my frost-bitten haul will be up shortly. If you enjoyed this post please nurse your frostbitten fingers back to life and leave a comment or a frozen thumbs up below. Thanks for stopping by once again.