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Frost and Flurries

Dec 12, 2011

A year or two ago I was explaining to a co-worker about how I was trying to shoot really good photos of hoar frost and she quickly stopped me mid-sentence. She told me to quit making up offensive words. Apparently “hoar frost” was a new phrase to her and the way I used it did not jive with how it sounded. Pulling up the term on Wikipedia, I quickly proved to her that the phrase was real and not a cause for concern in the workplace. In fact, I think it now makes for a good topic for my latest photo column. 

So far, December in South Dakota hasn’t seen much snow, at least here in the southeastern part of the state. I’m not complaining, mind you, but if you are on a quest to find holiday and/or festive outdoor photos, it can be difficult to capture the “Christmas Spirit” without the white stuff around. Here is where hoar frost can be your friend. I know most of us don’t think frost is very photogenic, particularly as we scrape a quarter-inch-thick layer from our windshields in the morning, but trust me, frost is a beautiful thing.

I find it especially nice after (or even during) one of those early winter, thick foggy days we often get here in this part of the world. The water in the air that causes the fog begins to gather on the windward side of any protruding object and soon beautiful, wonderful hoar frost appears. Recently I discovered that in some places you don’t even need fog. I happened to be below Lake Vermillion in eastern McCook County the other morning and noticed the banks of the river below the spillway were shimmering with frost in the early morning light. The running water from the spillway was moving too fast to freeze, but its vapor formed frost along the colder banks. Since the early morning sun was out, it allows me to take my macro lens out for some super close-up shots of the frost detail.

Still don’t like frost? That’s OK. Try snow flurries. Just over a year ago, my wonderful mother was able to capture a really nice shot of grouse perched in one of the evergreens in her yard in the middle of a heavy snow flurry. Ever since I saw that, I wanted to get something similar. A couple weeks ago there were some heavy snow flurries moving across the state as I traveled and as usual, my camera was at the ready and by my side. Southeast of Ft. Pierre, I drove up on a half dozen deer who wonderfully stood their ground and watched me watch them as the snow came down. All this watching allowed me to shoot a couple frames. The result was interesting. The heavy snowfall between my lens and the hilly background makes the shot look like it could have been painted by an impressionist painter of the 19th century. Well, sort of. The point is, don’t let the lack of snow or accumulated snow stop you from wandering out and looking for wonderful early winter images.You might be surprised what you find.


Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog


09:26 am - Mon, December 12 2011
What perfect timing for this article. Everything in my part of the state is covered with thick scallops of hoar frost today. With most of the inch or so of snow we received last week melted away by the warm weekend temps, this truly is a perfect Christmas backdrop for us.
01:23 pm - Mon, December 12 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Great pointers on snow, Christian. Our next print issue has a photo feature from Jeremiah Murphy, showing some amazing shots he took as the snow-guns were creating man-made flurries on Terry Peak. Moisture and light can be magical.
02:39 pm - Mon, December 12 2011
Andrea said:
I really like the picture of the fence on page 49 in the November/December issue of South Dakota Magazine.

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