Winter’s Black and White — and Gray — World

January 27, 2023

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Photographer: Ray Boren 

Summary Author: Ray Boren 

Storminess and repetitive snow-shoveling kept me home most of the time, but during a few breaks in the weather I felt compelled to see what all that snow was doing. I was surprised by how desaturated the urban world around me seemed, as demonstrated in the two photographs here. And to be clear: These are COLOR photographs. The first, taken on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2023, is of a tree-lined promenade that encircles the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Strips of fresh snow, instead of springtime cherry blossoms, line the trees, and a man can be seen walking away, disappearing around a curve in wispy fog. A second image, taken on the third day of the weather event, January 3, 2023, features a calm, reflective pond fed by Little Cottonwood Creek, in Salt Lake City, in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley.

Seeing the world “in black and white” has come to imply a narrow perspective. But the lack of color, as we perceive it with limited human eyes, can represent both reality and an aesthetic choice. Ansel Adams, the famed exponent of black and white photography, noted this, and used the gradations between black and white to express his appreciation for the grays in his images — and in life. “Our lives at times seem a study in contrast,” he said, “love and hate, birth and death, right and wrong … everything seen in absolutes of black and white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of gray that add depth and meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”

Plentiful rain turned to water-heavy snow as the new year, 2023, debuted where I live, on the Rocky Mountains’ western margin. Snow piled up over several bleak mid-winter days, as low blankets of cloud smothered the landscape. The U.S. National Weather Service reported that an atmospheric river — sometimes called a “Pineapple Express” — was flowing from the tropics across the Pacific Ocean, aiming its potent moisture first at coastal California, which experienced flooding. The flow surged inland across the Sierra Nevada Range and North America’s Great Basin before slamming into Utah’s Wasatch Mountains (and ski resorts). It’s a heck of a way to run a historic drought, which has been afflicting the West for two decades, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Salt Lake City, Utah Coordinates: 40.7608, -111.8910

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Utah Lake in Winter