Trying to Capture Beauty of the January 31 Blizzard

DSC08210Last weekend saw the biggest snowstorm of the season in Milwaukee. As usual, I wanted to get out and enjoy the pleasures that snow can provide while falling! Then, I went out afterwards to see how snow and wind had reshaped the landscape.

It is always a challenge to try to recapture the experience of a snowstorm, as engrossing – and hard to capture in photos – as it is. But I took photos to try to capture the feel of different parts of the storm, so here goes another attempt…

DSC08192Walking downtown, I had the chance to feel amidst both the wildness of snow, and the dramatic forms of some of the larger buildings in Milwaukee. A lot of history and design, a lot of snow visible in the air.

DSC08198I enjoy taking a look at landmarks with snow also as part of the scene. What gets blurred in the distance? How can one feel encased in a kind of limited-snow-globe-world, where after a certain point, all that appears to exist is a wall of snowy blur?

It was also fun to see others out in the snow, including a surprising-to-me number of bikers.

DSC08191One stab at capturing the feel of the falling snow, the lights of buildings, and the amusing interplay between lights and snow….

DSC08227Sometimes, I play with the abstractions that a camera shot can produce. How to recapture what it looks like to see streams of color as snow passes by a stoplight? Well, here’s one possibility.

DSC08240This image plays more with flash effects. I’d never see an image quite like this, I admit, but I like how it captures the sense of a place flooded with snow.

DSC08212A blurry experience. Vision is limited, it is skewed, it varies as the wind shifts. I think this image presents that aspect; glows, fuzzy, low light, but bright lights pierce through.


Whenever I see light in winter – moon, sun, street – I look for the sharp play of shadows on the boldly white snow.

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How do patterns intersect, as tree shadows fall across drift patterns, with their subtle abstractions and tiny shadows?


The next day, as the sun rose, this combination of patterns was even sharper.

Remember that you can find such drift patterns in all kinds of places. Wherever there’s a yard with trees on it. Or in this case – at the rest area off the highway near Lomira!

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This stunning glimpse at the intricacy of drift patterns also came from that rest area. The scale doesn’t need to be great to find how wind can whip subtle changes in elevation, and who knows what else into a surprising variety of elegance. And these patterns might soon change, so take a glimpse at the patterns each day brings.

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I was struck by the power of long shadows cast across fields as the sun rose. I admit, though, that I couldn’t get a picture of that. So how about we just take a glance at the above photo… and remember the times that we’ve seen trees’ shadows stretching far, turning entire fields into an array of contrasts? Eventually, I’ll get the pictures I’m looking for, and then I’ll share those 😉


Then, to finish where I started… another way to envision the movement of the storm. The grasses (and the trees behind them) have fresh accumulation from the snow. They also are pulled around, bent over, by the wind. Again – get outside, look around at various objects in the landscape, and let me know what you find! The blizzard can truly only be experienced from within, but it is still fun to focus one’s attention on aspects of it that one can remember later.

(All photos by and copyright Jeff Filipiak.)

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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4 Responses to Trying to Capture Beauty of the January 31 Blizzard

  1. Why and How says:

    Hi, Can we use your photo of tree shadow ( in our next blog post titled “shadow” with proper citation: “Shadow of a tree without leaves on snow (credit: Jeff Filipiak,”

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