Much of northern Illinois was covered with heavy frost at the first of the year. Some was Rime Ice, a very thick ice that forms when a fog is present during winter weather. Some was Hoar Frost, ice crystals that form when the temperature is well below freezing and the moisture creates ice crystal growths that resemble thorns or hairs. It was a very cold walk that day when I ventured out to capture images. Eye glass wearers always struggle on those very cold days to keep their glasses clear. But add a mask for COVID and fogging up just won’t stop. As a result, quite a few images captured were not in focus. That didn’t stop me from trying, however! Every branch and twig was covered with Hoar Frost. It was amazing to explore and get up close to see the ice crystals. The weather conditions have to be just right for this phenomenon to appear. And within hours the sun had melted all the crystals. It was a special time to be outside and look at all the ways the ice crystals grew.
Astral phenomena are not my speciality, nor do I have equipment to get those really great images. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to capture them, however. The weather in Chicagoland is almost always cloudy on nights of importance. So it was December 20, 2020 for the Winter Solstice and the “Bethlehem Star” as the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter was called. However, on December 21, while there were clouds, there was clear sky. It was very cold, but me, my camera and tripod and my husband ventured out to find a viewing spot. We ended up at Settler’s Hill in Geneva. I climbed up to the top of the hill (a landfill) and set up my tripod. What would come first — the conjunction visible or the cloud front moving in. I knew from an app on my iPad about where to look, but there are so many “lights” in the sky that are not stars or planets! Planes to O’Hare populate the skies. So we watched, and waited. I thought there was a bright light in about the right spot, but it would appear and disappear. Clouds! I finally spotted what I think was the conjunction, at first above the cloud bank, and then a bit later, below the cloud bank. The detail is not good. This is more about effort and challenge. A longer lens, you might see the rings of Saturn like some have captured. In my images, it is more about the ambiance, the sunset color and the relative placement of the conjunction to the horizon. By the end, my fingers were frozen (forgot gloves) and my husband had to light the path down the hill. But I did have fun, up high in the cold, watching a sunset and trying to spot the conjunction.
The sky was clear, but the temperature was cold. We decided to take several short walks in Morton Arboretum, late afternoon on New Year’s Day. As the sun lowered, the oak leaves turned gold and the colors on Lake Marmo, which was ice covered, offered reflections and colors. It was a great way to start 2020!
Spring is messed up in the Midwest this year. The plants thought Spring arrived a few weeks ago, but then Winter came back. So daffodils are bowing down from the cold, scilla are closing their petals in the cold, and muddy wet soil is frozen in places. This is not a good sign for spring flowers blooming in abundance!
My Mom and Grandma always said there had to be a snow on the yellow flowers before winter was over. I think we qualify today.
The shadows of trees and plants, the footprints of animals, all create drama on the snow. What is usually hidden by grass or dirt, comes alive with the whiteness of snow. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day and the shadows were amazing. Here are a few to share.