Watching the snow: images of beauty I find in shadow patterns

Perhaps the leading theme of my snow photographs is the patterns I try to capture. What shadows are trees casting? There are so many different arrangements of branches, snow drifts, brush, and other things that keep recreating new patterns to find with each new day.


I will walk along, and watch for what catches my eye; where I see lines drawn out. What little wonders are there to see? Scenes can be enjoyed in the moment – they can be captured in pictures. On another day, perhaps the snow would’ve been higher, the plants bent differently… but on the day I took the previous picture, I found this lovely balance of rounded brown plants and rounded shadows; two sets of lines with the same source, but with differences that make this a striking ‘mirroring.’

There are plenty of nooks and niches where one can find scenes like the one below:


How does the angle of the sun, and the drifting of the snow, bend shadows? How do they cross each other, how does a web develop? How does a mixture of faint and deep shadows develop? This day was one of the many bright sunny winter days – a good time to watch sunlight sparkle off the snow! (That sparkling I do not believe can ever fully be captured on film – it needs to be enjoyed in the moment.

On some days, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of patterns left behind:


Let us hope we all can leave a legacy of tracks as rhythmic and elegant as these 🙂


To find the most patterns… head off into the woods. You can watch how paths and tracks cross them; or you can capture images of fresh snow. With the sun at the right angle, patterns can stretch on and on… (on the edge of a frozen lake, on and on without interruption). There’s a surprising amount of shading here. And more variety than one might realize; the snow drifts, but it also curves to follow what is underneath, to an extent.

On the day I took that last photo, I was entertained to see the changes in shadow patterns as the sun moved across the sky. At first, I focused on the white of snow, while watching to see which marks the trees lay down. As the sun went down in the sky, shadows appeared to grow longer. But even moreso, the area of shadow grew; it felt blockier. Eventually, the snow was mostly shadowed; at that point, the rays of white were what stuck out.

This winter’s continued cold means that our snow cover has lasted. How much longer it will last, we don’t know. It is the snow, after all, that creates these sharp contrasts of white and shadow, which we would not see in any other season. So I hope you get out soon and take a look for the patterns you can find!

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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2 Responses to Watching the snow: images of beauty I find in shadow patterns

  1. Pingback: shadow | Why And How

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