It’s about this time of year that I turn into an excitable child again. The moment we cross into November, my mind’s full of frost, knitwear and Christmas. I think it’s linked to the clocks going back. While getting up before the sun can be horrid, I love that my afternoon walks are in the dark now. I’m sure it won’t be long before Christmas lights start appearing up and down the village.
Last winter I was spoilt rotten with over a week of thick, persevering snow. It was unheard of in Burghead, seeing as we jut out into the Moray Firth and the salt air usually prevents anything more than frost from settling. I know I shouldn’t expect another wonderland like that again this year, but the aforementioned excitable child has her fingers crossed!
The natural world is stunning throughout the year but in winter I believe it becomes even more special. Here are some of the things I love most about the silver season.
Frost and ice
Frost is what first got me interested in macro photography. The sparkly sheets covering the ground look pretty even from afar, but getting right up close to shards of microscopic ice is completely addictive.
It’s not all sharp and jagged either – in the past I’ve photographed a huge range of shapes including swirls, ribbons and bubbles.
At this time of year the sun takes on a milky, diluted glow which is just delicious to photograph. I’m not much of a landscape photographer, but on my recent trip to Portknockie I spent hours on the beach capturing Bow Fiddle Rock as the light dimmed.
Initially the rock was bathed in gold but once the sun sunk below the horizon, the sky behind Bow Fiddle glimmered with pinks and blues. It’s a chilly image and I’m really pleased with how it came out.
I count myself extremely lucky to live in a part of the UK where the northern lights occasionally show up. The displays here aren’t as elaborate as they are in Norway or Iceland and they can be tricky to make out with the naked eye, but last weekend there was a particularly good show and I managed to catch a few pillars on camera.
The northern lights remind me of His Dark Materials, which remind me of witches and animal dæmons and all that good stuff. I also believe the aurora is the closest thing to magic we can physically see, and it’s one of my ultimate winter highlights. Even if you don’t live in an aurora zone, you can still watch it real time on this Shetland Webcam. There’s the added bonus of not having to get freezing cold!
Summer and winter are great times to be a birder as there are new faces to see. While I love the ospreys, swallows and whitethroats that accompany long summer days, I have a soft spot for the winter migrants. I managed to see waxwings last year and I’ve got everything crossed that we’ll get another royal visit from them this time round, but some years they just don’t show. Even without waxwings, we have redwings, fieldfares, bramblings, eider ducks and long-tailed ducks on the cards. So many photo opportunities!
I know a lot of people struggle with the long nights during winter and this is definitely a challenge, but I hope this list will provide some wintery inspiration. There’s plenty still to enjoy in the dark half of the year.