In the fall of 2015, I relocated from Richmond, Virginia north a few hours to the town of Leesburg, Virginia. I continue to frequently travel to Richmond to photograph the area and one of the routes I take, when I’m not in any sort of hurry, is a back roads route that takes me through some wonderful farmland.
On my very first trip along this route, I took note of a small grove of Sweetgum trees on a farm only about 20 minutes south of Leesburg. The moment I saw these trees, I knew exactly the conditions under which I wanted to photograph them: in the dead of winter under a significant snowfall.
It was on January 13th, 2019, when the Northern Virginia area was hit with a snowstorm that would see a foot of snow accumulate. (In 2016, we had a snowstorm dump three feet of snow on us, but that was just a bit too much to try to drive out in to get this shot. One foot; that’s somewhat doable.)
Road conditions were pretty bad on the way there and I have to admit questioning my sanity, but I was able to make it. There just happens to be a pullout next to a gate that allows farm vehicles access to this pasture that made a convenient parking spot so I wouldn’t risk my truck getting sideswiped by a plow as I was capturing my image. I did worry just a bit about the snow being deep enough to pose a problem backing out of the pullout, and that was in the back of my mind as I was setting up and taking the shot, but I needn’t have worried. 4-wheel drive handled it just fine.
I shot only a few images, playing around with different shutter speeds to create different looks with the falling snow and settled on this image as the final one for printing. At full size, the falling snow is clearly visible against the dark bark of the trees. At the left side of the image, a tree-covered hill in the background makes for some fascinating texture in the image.
When I first saw these trees, the concept of black-on-white came as a companion to a image I had made about 5 years earlier of a grove of trees in the James River in Richmond, named “Bonsai Garden.” These two images work very well together I think: