Wednesday, January 7, 2015

As cold as the North Woods in January



I was poking around on Twitter earlier today (@JohnHthePoet) and I came across a haiku inspired by the Wisconsin North Woods. It captured much of Winter's characteristics throughout the North Woods, but I thought missed a needed emphasis on the cold we're enjoying this week. I responded with this:

Minnesota Winter Haiku

S'cold, s'cold, bitter cold
Windchill howled: yet more cold
So cold. Go cold. Fold

snow-covered ice on a small pond
snow-covered ice on a small pond
Photo by J. Harrington

I've been thinking about the challenge of showing serious cold photographically. It's hard. There's snow and/or ice, but we have either or both when it's a lot warmer than it is today.  Anything less than 32° will support and show snow and/or ice. Moving water, or salt water, doesn't freeze as readily, but the viewer needs to know whether they're seeing an ice-covered river or if it's salt water. Neither is all that self-evident. I was impressed last Winter when I noticed the Mississippi River frozen in downtown Minneapolis. Many, many years ago, Boston, my home town, was cold enough for long enough that many of the bays around the harbor, and the Inner Harbor, froze. Around salt water, cold is usually a damp cold, which can feel colder than a dry cold. Anyhow, please feel free to use the comments section below and share any thoughts you may have on how to effectively show deep cold in a photograph.

ice-crusted rigging on a Great Lakes freighter
ice-crusted rigging on a Great Lakes freighter
Photo by J. Harrington

Even the ice-encrusted rigging on a freighter coming in to Duluth harbor doesn't really seem to capture bitter, bitter cold, but it comes close. Another example I can think of but is missing from my collection is an ice covered beard.

“Alone I stare into the frost’s white face”

By Osip Mandelstam 

Alone I stare into the frost’s white face.   
It’s going nowhere, and I—from nowhere.   
Everything ironed flat, pleated without a wrinkle:   
Miraculous, the breathing plain.   

Meanwhile the sun squints at this starched poverty—
The squint itself consoled, at ease . . .   
The ten-fold forest almost the same . . .   
And snow crunches in the eyes, innocent, like clean bread.   

January 16, 1937 

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