Snow Drift in Scotland

One of the most remarkable things about this part of Scotland is how quickly the weather conditions can change. Within the space of 48 hours last week, we had gone from walking on golden sands under a blue sky to being huddled inside without power due to blizzard conditions! Admittedly there had been a very cold wind blowing on the return journey from photographing the rocks of Garheugh last week but we had no idea just how severe the snowstorm would be.


Of course, when you find yourself without power the priority is to keep warm but the dramatic landscape was too good to ignore! Several outings with the camera were necessary to cover different parts of the village. The locals could not remember the last serious snowfall, certainly not one that led to the massive drifts that blocked off all three access roads. By the time some of the local farmers and building companies had managed to clear a way through, the snow was piled up to 10 feet high at the roadside.


When photographing snow, the prevailing weather conditions are absolutely critical to getting good shots. My first venture out was something of a disaster as the wind was still whipping up snow from the neighbouring fields making it nearly impossible to focus and keep the camera free of water. The following day the sun shone and gave the best opportunity to get out and about. The contrast between the blue sky and white landscape with the deep blue and purple shadows was much easier on the eye.


I don’t make any claims to being a serious photographer so my first priority was simply to create a record of this unusual event. There is always a sense of urgency with freshly fallen snow because it changes so quickly. The best photo opportunities are usually within the first few hours after the snowfall, when it is covering overhanging branches and pathways and has not been “spoiled” by traffic and pedestrians.


Short of getting someone to stand in front of a snowdrift, it is difficult to show the true scale. By far the most striking drift was to be found at the top of a steep lane out of the village. On approach it looked as if the road turned to the left but it didn’t. There was just a sheer wall of snow at the top. Attempts to get near were abandoned when the snow was clearing my wellies by a good few inches!


An evening walk revealed the landscape in a new light. The setting sun provided some weird and wonderful colours where the snowdrifts reflected it. Many of the roadways had been cleared by necessity but the fields still had the look of freshly blown snow. I was struck by the clearly defined ridges and stark contrasts where the fields met the top of walls and fences. I am sure that a more skilled photographer would have produced better results but I was reasonably satisfied considering the cold!


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