Snow and ice make photos nice

Photo by Gary Whelply
by Derek Doeffinger

A little snow and ice can transform the world not only visually but also behaviorally. Last weekend’s cold and snow revealed just that. The snow turned a full moon landscape into a stunning twilight tableaux while the cold created pond ice that brought Montezuma’s Sandhill Cranes into photogenic clusters to feed in the open shoreline waters.

The full moon broke the horizon a half hour before the sun set at 7:28 p.m. I was standing in a field of corn stubble watching spellbound as the yellow disk climbed into the twilight branches of a frazzled ridge top oak. The air was calm and cold, the cobalt blue sky tinged the snow. The only sound the slight crunch of snow as I shifted my feet.

A shout shattered the spell:  “Take three steps to the right and point your camera so it looks like you’re taking a picture.” I had forgotten my friend Gary was behind me, twenty yards down the slope. I couldn’t complain. We were there to photograph the full moon above the snow. And to get back in time for some March Madness.

The next day I made a solo trip to Montezuma Wildlife Refuge to see the Sandhill Cranes. The Wildlife Drive was still closed (opens April 1 but closes during the eclipse), but that’s okay because the cranes were in the main pond, easily viewed from the deck of the welcome center,


Photos by Derek Doeffinger


With much of the pond frozen, a group of cranes had gathered to feed along the ice-free north shore, about a hundred yards away. In Nebraska and New Mexico, they appear in the thousands and their guttural, almost cackling calling can be deafening. I haven’t seen those gatherings except on nature programs.

At Montezuma, their numbers are lower, tending to meander through the double digits. But the cranes themselves are equally compelling. On land, these stick like creatures seem awkwardly elegant, their skinny stick like legs unfolding and angling like tent poles being assembled. But with their long flexible as a hose necks they are well designed to wade through shallow waters and feed.

In the air, they’re grace personified. But I didn’t see them flying this day. Maybe next time.

Derek Doeffinger spent a few decades at Kodak explaining how people can take better pictures and then encouraging them to use Kodak products — especially digital cameras. That last part didn’t quite work out. Fortunately during his Kodak days he became an obsessed outdoor photographer, especially of Finger Lakes waterfalls. He’s written several photos books about the Finger Lakes and digital photography, and now has written quite a few articles for Life in the Finger Lakes.

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