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The First Snow-Falls

On a visit to Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada, I set up my gear looking to capture this waterfall with its blackened background. As I stood there though, I was suddenly in the midst of the season’s first (and furious) snow-storm. In only a matter of minutes, the landscape transformed in front of me with everything being quickly dusted with white.

It was locals, turned friends, who directed me to this location – my first time here. The timing was accidental but perfect, and I had just enough time to shoot three images before the sun went down, and it quickly became too dark.

The dramatic contrast helped me decide that ‘The First Snow-Falls’ would be my inaugural black and white photograph among my existing portfolio of vibrant colour. Upon stripping the colour from the image, I was surprised to see that the depth, clarity, and detail remained. In fact, it was not muted, it was enhanced. The rock face and single tree branch on the left side of the image appear to be in arm’s reach – as if you could feel the texture in front of you by reaching through the image. In contrast, the waterfall appears terraced as if it slowly recedes into the distance.

The result of so much white shifted the original composition of the image. The previously jagged rock faces were suddenly softened by their new colourless facade. The waterfall, though forceful, appears silky from its motion as it flows down the rock face, appearing to meet the pond below gently.

At first, black and white photography was a necessity due to limitations with technology, now though, it’s an art form of its own. In a digital age where images can be incredibly manipulated – it’s still common to feel drawn back to photography’s first manifestation – the black and white picture. The images appear timeless – by transporting us to a place that transcends the here and now, black and white pictures are universal.

Monochrome images seem to touch us more, to hold more resonance, and to be somehow ‘truer’ than colour images. These images can induce a mood or convey emotion in ways that colour images simply do not. People are emotional beings, and those emotions can help us connect to each other in more powerful and more meaningful ways. Photography is one of those realms where very strong connections can be made, and the decisive use of black and white images can enable such connections.

‘The First Snow-Falls’ left me thinking that great photographs often result from chance meetings between time and place. I had originally come to this location to take images of the waterfall against a darkened background, and then the bright white snow arrived spontaneously. This small change in the weather allowed for a completely different experience and photographic outcome. By allowing myself to stay in this moment and find the opportunity, I experienced a very special moment in time. I love when an image develops outside of your control no matter how much planning went into a particular location or the specific shot.

Time decides who you will meet in your life. That might sound unlikely or even naive, but there is some real science that indicates that while you cannot control the randomness of your life, you can certainly create your own luck. Many people join me in believing that if you prepare yourself to make the most of chance encounters, good things are waiting to happen all around you.