Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for February 20th, 2021

The continuing photographic fruits of our unprecedented winter weather

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Austin has been through a week like none that anyone alive has ever experienced here. First came the ice storm of February 12th, which you’ve already seen a few pictures of. The weight of the ice caused many tree limbs to break, including a bunch in our yard. Especially hard hit were the Ashe junipers, Juniperus ashei, as shown in the top photograph. Falling tree branches took out power lines all over town. We began getting intermittent electrical blackouts. Then came 6.5 inches of snow, and the day after that some more ice. The power grid couldn’t handle the load because the outdoor temperature got as low as 8°F (–13°C) one morning and 9°F the next, as measured by our outdoor thermometer. For days on end the temperature never got above freezing. The official count was 144 consecutive hours below freezing, but if you take out a brief “surge” to 33°F (0.5°C) on Thursday the number of hours would be longer.

Power blackouts started intermittently but soon became long ones, with spells when we didn’t have power for 33 hours and later another 19 hours. Because the temperature inside our house dropped to 43°F (6°C), we slept in sleeping bags with layers of clothing on and a heavy quilt and blankets piled over the sleeping bags. We pulled out another relic of long-ago camping, a portable stove, and cooked on it in the sheltered entryway outside our front door, so at least we had hot drinks and hot meals.

Because all the accumulated ice and snow made roads treacherous, few people dared to drive. One car sat abandoned for days a couple of houses up from us; the driver hadn’t been able to get enough traction to keep going up the hill. On February 16th and again on the 18th I dressed warmly, put on my rubber boots, slung a camera over my shoulder, and with a walking stick in each hand for stability carefully wended my way the half mile downhill to Great Hills Park, all for the chance to take pictures of our unaccustomed winter white. On the intervening day and the following day I spent hours in our yard making closeups of ice-encased branches, icicles, and other things. Over the next several posts you’ll see some of the results. All three of today’s images are from Great Hills Park on February 16th. Chronologically the bottom one came first, while the sun still shone; the thick, tree-like vines are mustang grapes, Vitis mustangensis.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Posted in nature photography

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