Missouri's Winter

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 10, 2010

Winter might be my favorite season. I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand, a city that is hot nearly year-round, so I enjoy the novelty. Also, winter provides an opportunity to photograph things you probably won’t see any other time of year.

Many migrant birds can only be seen in Missouri during the winter months. Other wildlife behaves differently in the winter and can be easier to find and photograph. Mostly, though, I love the effect that the interplay of snow, ice and light can have on a landscape.

A bison, any time of year, is an impressive animal. A bison covered in frost is larger than life. The already striking colors of a songbird become more vivid against a backdrop of white. Familiar landscapes appear otherworldly when blanketed with snow and ice. And, in a paradox of ice and fire, sunlight can make ice-bound foliage appear ablaze.

Some people use winter as an excuse to retreat inside, only venturing out when necessary. They dash between locations that, preferably, have centralized heat, and choose to experience the season vicariously through images like these.

While I’m happy to provide this experience, nothing can replace discovering the beauty of Missouri’s winter in person.

So let these pictures inspire you to pull on those long johns, zip up those parkas, and get out for a little while. Perhaps, like me, you will fall in love with what you see.

—Noppadol Paothong

Missouri River

Late in the evening at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area in Columbia, I noticed a reflection on the Missouri River as the sun was setting over the hill. I used a polarizer filter to cut the glare of the water while increasing the contrast of the clouds above, and a neutral density filter to get the most color out of the sky while maintaining correct exposure at the bottom of the frame.

17-40mm wide-angle lens

f/4.0

Bluebird Feeding

I found this Eastern bluebird one year when I was searching for songbirds’ feeding places after a big snowstorm. I expected that the cold and snow would force them to concentrate in small areas and compete for food. I found a berry tree and spent days photographing the bluebird feeding on the berries that fell on the snow.

600mm telephoto lens

f/5.7

Shawnee Trail Ice Storm

After hearing the news about an ice storm approaching southwest Missouri, I decided to visit Shawnee Trail Prairie. When I arrived, the field was completely covered by ice. I took this image as the bitterly cold wind blew clouds off from the horizon.

17-40mm wide-angle lens

f/4.0

polarizer filter

Snow on Berries

A good opportunity to photograph wildlife is when snow is on the ground. I’ve always kept my eyes open for a good close-up detail of snow. I found these red berries that had good contrast with snow on the branch.

70-200mm lens

f/3.5

Opossum

Snow is the best time to look for wildlife. Animals are more active searching for food, and they stand out easier in the white snow. As soon as I found this opossum walking along the snow bank, I grabbed my camera gear and started to photograph. I only had a few seconds before it disappeared into the forest.

500mm telephoto lens

f/5.7

Bison

When I heard about a heavy ice storm coming in January 2007, I packed my gear and headed down to Prairie State Park near Lamar, where I could photograph a herd of wild bison. When I arrived, the park was covered with ice, and there was a minus 10-degree wind chill. After a few hours outside, my clothes were totally covered with sheets of ice. On the fourth day of photographing, snow started to fall again, and I found this group of bison huddled together to stay warm. I spent the next few hours walking ahead of them, trying not to make them mad and charge me. This image is my favorite because it shows the harsh weather bison have to endure.

500 mm telephoto lens

f/4.0

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