The Winter That Was

February 18, 2011 by Melissa McMasters

Now I'm not foolish enough to think that these comfy temperatures and clear days mean that winter in Pittsburgh is really over...even though a certain puckish groundhog would like me to believe it's true. But I'm already looking ahead to another spring of photographing new blooms and returning wildlife, so now seems like as good a time as any to post a look back at the winter in photos.

There wasn't nearly as much fresh snow this winter as there was last year, so a lot of the time I was trying to find some type of different angle. I would try to look closer, or look at the world a little out of focus. Truth be told, I spent a lot of this winter inside! But here is what I managed to collect from the parks as a commemorative winter souvenir.

We're currently planning some work in McKinley Park in Beltzhoover, restoring a stone entrance structure. I went over in early December to grab some before photos, and the many red squirrels were the only things that popped against a brown landscape.

Red squirrel

This was a fun outing. I was visiting Westinghouse Pond in Schenley Park, which is a small area that for some reason always yields some kind of photographic surprise. There had just been a big snowmelt and the pond was flooding, buoying the last of the fall leaves on the ground, so I was looking downward and shooting the leaves and droplets...

Red-tailed hawk

...when a man walked over and told me that if I'd look up, I'd see some red-tailed hawks. Even with the tree branches silhouetted against a flat white sky, I could not make out anything resembling a bird. Finally he had to walk me over to where I was standing directly underneath one. This is one of the birds shortly before being knocked off its perch by another.

Fall leaves

This is the first winter for the restored Mellon Park Walled Garden, so I was curious to see how the stars in the lawn would show up. They're very subtle--you can't make them out too strongly in the wide view, but the garden is lovely nonetheless.

Mellon Park Walled Garden

You can see a couple of stars a little better close up. I consider this a personal achievement, because the wind chill was 2 degrees, it was about an hour after sunset, and I handheld this for about 8 seconds. Steady as she goes!

Mellon Park Stars

Winter isn't winter without a shot of snow on a witch hazel branch.

Witch hazel

Some more snow-on-plants from behind the Highland Park reservoir.

Snow on leaves

There's an area near Clayton Hill in Frick Park with lots of moss and interesting little heart-shaped plants growing on a rocky wall. These were the only green things I saw on a gray day.

Green hearts

I have lots of photos of Schenley Plaza's holiday lights; I have lots of photos of the Mary Schenley Fountain. But I never shot the fountain through the trees. In a funny way it looks like it's snowing.

Holiday lights and fountain

This was the final day the holiday lights were up. This time I decided just to fuzz everything. I've been finding the lack of edges in deliberately out-of-focus photos sort of cool lately.

Lights out of focus

A leaf during a snowstorm and the reservoir following one.

Leaf and reservoir

This one was an instance of looking closer. There wasn't a lot of snow on the ground so wide shots weren't looking all that nice, and I really wanted to see if there were any flowers that had survived the cold. I found these along the Nine Mile Run Trail in Frick Park, and they were so faded and lovely that I decided to give them the full antique-photo treatment.


This one was from that same walk, shot into the sunset.

Sunset grass

I just love happening upon a brand-new tree. This little oak sits underneath a stand of larger ones in the bed where all the daffodils are planted on Bartlett Street. The photo on the right is of the parent trees; once again I thought the spaces between the branches were almost more interesting than the branches themselves, so I went out of focus.

Oak tree

And finally...the sure sign that Schenley Plaza has shifted its focus to the season ahead. Photos of real daffodils are just around the corner. I can't wait.

Plaza daffodils

Highland Park, Mellon Park, Photography, Frick Park, Schenley Park