How to Stay Motivated to Photograph Nature after Months in the Snow and Cold

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I am a photographer. I love the outdoors and I live in the state of Minnesota. Even if you love snow and extreme temperatures, I can assure you that, by the end of January, you will be starved for some color in nature and less bulky clothing. Living in a ‘black and white’ landscape for several months every year makes you appreciate little things. As a photographer and nature lover you develop an eye for details. Here are a few tips to help you survive a long, cold and snowy winter while photographing nature.

First and foremost, be ready for extreme temperatures and wind chills before heading out into the woods. Hand and feet warmers and layers of clothing are common sense. Thin gloves under your heavy mittens so that you don’t get frostbites when you need to make camera adjustments are a good idea. Having a large plastic bag handy to seal your camera or your entire gear bag in before going back to room temperature will prevent heavy condensation on your precious equipment.

In the middle of winter, there will be a time when you find yourself in a creative rut, when you are going to get tired of photographing ‘Winter Wonderland’ however pretty it may look. You are starting to dream about grass, dirt, spring flowers and the return of the migratory birds. I usually reach that state of mind around mid January. So what do I do? I get out there with my camera and my snowshoes and I shoot.

What do I look for when out on a nature walk in January? I pay attention to details, patterns, the slightest bit of color, animal tracks, wildlife. Why not experiment with some black and white photography or use a creative effect lens such as the Lensbaby Composer? Here are a few examples of images I shot on some of the most dreary and cold days this winter, most of them within walking distance from my house:

The color of the blue spruce really stands out in the snow.

Look for interesting shapes, here the shadow and drift look like a giant spoon

Patterns in the snow

Snow covered fox tracks

Use a shallow depth of field to isolate a detail

Deer always look so beautiful in the snow. They are almost impossible to spot in the woods any other time of the year.

Experiment with black and white

Need a little creative boost? A special effect lens such as the Lensbaby Composer can be a really fun tool to look at nature differently

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you are located in a cold state or country, spring is coming… Happy winter shooting!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

  • with all this snow, on the first day over 40 i had to get down to the beach… took this shot feb 6th!!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50432810@N05/5423210787/

  • ScottC

    Yes, it does get cold: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4280952141/

    Not sure of the point of this article.

  • After growing up in a region with true seasons, I can appreciate your “dilemma”, and your stunning photos of the one thing I truly miss from home.

    I now live in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, and I have a similar problem, but is is with the sun. We have over 300 days of sun! Some days are just too bright (or too hot).

  • PTL

    The point of this article is to inspire people to look for things with colour and shape even in the blandest of environments like snow, with some fabulous examples. It’s a good article 🙂

  • @Chris: thanks! The grass is always green on the other side! 😉 More subzero wind chills here this week, it’s tough to stay motivated but you’re right, having such dramatic changes in seasons really makes you appreciate little things!

  • Valerie, I love your photos. I used to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and to this day, my favorite sound in the world is the squeaking and crunching of snow when it gets really cold. I try to beat the monotony of color by doing something really different to get the shot – so the whole experience, not just the photo, is memorable – which in turn adds to the moment of the images as well. This last one, for instance, I took last Friday after donning my waders, then snowshoeing down to the ocean through a park, to kneel in the surf to get an image of the Annisquam Lighthouse out in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Needless to say, anyone who saw me probably thought I was nuts, but what a great time!!!…and I think the images turned out nicely too

    http://www.thomasgaitley.com/Landscapes/Featured-Favorites/12387102_jvRRL#1179275370_qvQgA)

  • I’m also in Minnesota, but I cheated this weekend and went to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul.

  • It’s been a bit crisp around here (Colorado), too. Below zero (F), but not cold enough to prevent lunchtime walks (though camera batteries aren’t too real happy).

    I found your missing migratory birds. 😎

  • Great shots, Valerie. I love living in Minnesota primarily because of the seasons. I can’t imaging living somewhere with a static boring 80F and sunny every day.

    @Jody: Como is awesome. I love shooting there…mostly outside though. 😉

    Don’t forget about all great winter festivals in Minnesota. I shot the Fire Jam at the Luminary Loppet on Saturday. Awesome! http://www.flickr.com/photos/mully410/sets/72157625860968843/

  • John D

    Nice article…..gave me some inspiration….as I’m suffering from the “is winter over yet”…….just got a new camera, and can’t wait until spring…… Thanks for the article.

  • Thanks for sharing some inspiration for this dreary weather. I love the photo of the drift around the tree. Simple, yet beautiful!

  • Phil

    Thanks! Good encouragement – those are nice photos. Reading this makes me want to get out again this winter!

  • kay

    This website is really a great helper for me as a photographer…thanks a lot to the editor..you are great..thanks again

  • Hi

    Being a Canadian, I can relate to this article very well. I recall -40C weather and squeaky snow. I do have a few cool winter shot of some Hor Frost that I would like to share.

    Hor Frost in New Zealand: http://t.co/P2vz0cE

    Frosty Trees, New Zealand: http://t.co/dVFuqPD

    Blue Mist & Hor Frost, New Zealand: http://t.co/ZINHppo

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • Great article, Jody! Makes me want to go out and find something click-worthy.
    @ Tom It was worth it! Those are amazing photos!

    We’ve had a really hard winter here in southern Ontario, too. It’s the short days that are frustrating – by the time you’re off work, it’s night. And weekends always seem to be very cold and snowy. Time to try some Still Life shots for the DPS Assignments!

    Doug, could we please have our birds back? We’ll start with robins, the Herald of Spring. 😉

  • Hi there! it’s -7F (-14F Wind chill) this afternoon here in MN! Spring weather this weekend with near freezing temperatures expected though!

    @Tom, beautiful work!
    @Mully, cool shots, I have to experiment with light painting!
    @Ariana, I am glad my article served as an inspiration for you to get out and shoot more, even in the cold,. Days are getting longer…
    @Doug, I try to keep my extra batteries inside my jacket, they do run out quickly!
    @Jody I haven’t been to the Como conservatory this winter yet.

    To all Minnesotan living in the TC on the forum, let’s get together and shoot sometimes!

    You can see more of my work on my Smugmug gallery here:
    http://valeriejardinphotography.smugmug.com/

  • I know how you all feel. I live in the desert so I have to deal with brown all year long. So when i find a splash of color in the desert, I photograph it all I can.

  • bexjarratt

    Nice snow pictures. We’ve had weeks of miserable grey skies and drizzle. I would have been more inspired by snow, that’s for sure!

  • snow is nice even every single flake of snow. we are not able to see it on detail every day 🙂
    I hope you like it.

    http://1year365fotos.blogspot.com/2011_01_02_archive.html

  • There was a problem embedding it 🙁

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/elkabubi/5327195242/

  • John

    Valerie,
    Nice article. My Photography New Years resolution was to stop complaining about the the Gray Skies and cold and embrace them. I have gone on a few outings with my cross country skis and camera on my back. I use a storm Jacket for camera and a kayak water proof bag to keep condensation off gear once I return home. The most important thing is double layer socks and glove/ mitten combo. Thanks for a bit of inspiration.

  • Hi Valerie,
    Great post! It is very helpful to see what inspires others for winter scenes. You have wonderful shots!
    Bill

  • This is a perfect post for me considering I live in Chicago and we were blasted by snowfall this winter. And this was exactly what I told me mother back home in India — “….winter is boring and its just white everywhere. You take a photo and its white … everything is white white white…..”. I am really glad to see this post and after a week I am going to take my camera and see what I can capture 🙂 Here are my blizzard pictures btw … http://krishrao.com/2011/02/02/chicago-blizzard-picture-feb-2011/

    Thanks for this great post !

  • Valerie,

    Do you shoot a gray/white card to set your WB before you take your snow photos? Generally, on a bright, sunny day with predominately snow filling the frame, what do you use to get the white whites? I’m still striving to find that “in camera” solution rather than always fixing in post….Thanks, Tom

  • Tom,
    I should use one of those cards but I don’t… I play with the exposure a lot. When in doubt I do exposure bracketing in camera and/or adjust the exposure in Lightroom if necessary.
    Valerie

  • Jenny

    Valerie, I’m a San Diego native living in Mpls. I LOVE outdoor photography during the sane part of the year, but I admit I’m a wimp in the winter! I’ve decided after reading this point and looking at your beautiful photos, I will be a wimp NO MORE! 🙂
    I will don my hand/foot warmers, bundle up, and go get some great shots. Very inspiring, thank you!

    I’d totally be game for a photo walk one with some other TC enthusiasts one of these days.

    @Tom Gaitley, your photos are stunning. Kudos for your wader/snowshoe bravado!

  • Another possibility is to stay indoors, pull out the tripod, the flash, the macro lens and see what you can do with these items.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikonline/5428865241/

    I so agree, living in a black and white world for months is not great by the time you reach January!

  • @Bill, Thank you for the nice comment!
    @Charlotte: true, but since I shoot for a living all week, I like to shoot outdoors on weekends!

  • Kris

    Love this article! I live in northern Wisconsin and just this week I reached the ” tired of shooting snow, icy river, and winter landscapes stage. My photo collection is similar to those posted above…thanks for an inspiring article and a reminder that we aren’t alone in this winter fever!

  • Ben

    great shots Valerie. I am also a native of MN and although I’m going a little crazy right for the reasons you mentioned, I do love winter and the variety it gives for photography.

    here are a couple blog post on my latest winter adventures:
    late night snowshoe
    Winter on the north shore

    the cold is only cold when you don’t dress right .

  • I fall in love with Winter !!! And everytime I go to NY takes as many as possible photos with snow and cold. Unfortanely here in Colombia, we dont NEVER ever had snow.

  • Snow is beautiful, but what about present days in my area? Foggy, wet, dull, grey,…

  • Hi everyone! Thanks again for all the nice comments. I hope to see some of your work too. Connect on FB and/or Twitter, all my info on the article!
    We are finally enjoying some temperatures above freezing this weekend here in Minnesota. I love the sound of water drops from melting snow after so many months in the deep freeze!

  • Wow, it looks like a lot of the earlier comments just got posted today.
    @ptl: THanks!
    @John D: Thanks! Spring is coming!
    @Wendy, thanks, sometimes beauty is in the simple things…
    @Phil: Great, mission accomplished!
    @Erik: Great shots!
    @Patricia: I suppose, desert brown would get old after a while too 😉
    @Bill: Thanks for the kind words!
    @Hagen: nice B&W shots.
    @Ben, great shots of the North Shore, one of my favorite destinations!

    Again, thanks everyone! please keep in touch on FB or Twitter!
    Valerie

  • Jim S

    Nice shots and great inspiration Valerie. I’m almost never without my camera in hand, but winter finds me shooting the same scene under different light – morning, evening – … but from my back door most of the time!!
    Must get out more.
    @scottc – not sure of the point of your post. Nice photo by the way. But you’re obviously too good a photographer to be posting on this site. You shouldn’t frustrate yourself by reading them.

    Thanks Valerie!

  • I so agree! And don’t forget to go to your favorite waterfalls and get shots of them frozen…ice formations are some of the most beautiful photos you can capture, EVER.

  • Great. You can always find a new angle to photograph anything in a new way. You just have to be open to it.

  • Winter may be great time (sometimes even better than summer!) for landscape photography especially in mountains, like Alps ( http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-zima_w_bawarii–en.html ) or Beskidy in Poland ( http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-babia_gora_zima–en.html ).

    You have just remember that mountains are dangerous, be well prepared and behave responsible.

  • arviatinuk

    I live in the arctic. We have little elevations and no trees so it often looks like a blank page. You have given me some great ideas for some mid winter pics. With 7 months of winter i need all the tips i can get. Thanks to DPS and all contributers for making me a better photographer.

  • I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I am hoping the same high-grade website post from you in the upcoming also. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own web site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a great example of it.

  • mminkus

    Thank you for sparking my creativity. I tend to over think compositions

Some Older Comments

  • Stephen Sauls August 5, 2013 07:52 pm

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  • arviatinuk April 14, 2011 09:13 am

    I live in the arctic. We have little elevations and no trees so it often looks like a blank page. You have given me some great ideas for some mid winter pics. With 7 months of winter i need all the tips i can get. Thanks to DPS and all contributers for making me a better photographer.

  • Tomasz Worek March 18, 2011 12:24 am

    Winter may be great time (sometimes even better than summer!) for landscape photography especially in mountains, like Alps ( http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-zima_w_bawarii--en.html ) or Beskidy in Poland ( http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-babia_gora_zima--en.html ).

    You have just remember that mountains are dangerous, be well prepared and behave responsible.

  • Stefanie February 28, 2011 04:07 pm

    Great. You can always find a new angle to photograph anything in a new way. You just have to be open to it.

  • The Retired One February 16, 2011 05:46 am

    I so agree! And don't forget to go to your favorite waterfalls and get shots of them frozen...ice formations are some of the most beautiful photos you can capture, EVER.

  • Jim S February 14, 2011 01:50 pm

    Nice shots and great inspiration Valerie. I'm almost never without my camera in hand, but winter finds me shooting the same scene under different light - morning, evening - ... but from my back door most of the time!!
    Must get out more.
    @scottc - not sure of the point of your post. Nice photo by the way. But you're obviously too good a photographer to be posting on this site. You shouldn't frustrate yourself by reading them.

    Thanks Valerie!

  • Valerie Jardin February 14, 2011 05:42 am

    Wow, it looks like a lot of the earlier comments just got posted today.
    @ptl: THanks!
    @John D: Thanks! Spring is coming!
    @Wendy, thanks, sometimes beauty is in the simple things...
    @Phil: Great, mission accomplished!
    @Erik: Great shots!
    @Patricia: I suppose, desert brown would get old after a while too ;-)
    @Bill: Thanks for the kind words!
    @Hagen: nice B&W shots.
    @Ben, great shots of the North Shore, one of my favorite destinations!

    Again, thanks everyone! please keep in touch on FB or Twitter!
    Valerie

  • Valerie Jardin February 14, 2011 05:14 am

    Hi everyone! Thanks again for all the nice comments. I hope to see some of your work too. Connect on FB and/or Twitter, all my info on the article!
    We are finally enjoying some temperatures above freezing this weekend here in Minnesota. I love the sound of water drops from melting snow after so many months in the deep freeze!

  • Manosmaster February 12, 2011 10:24 pm

    Snow is beautiful, but what about present days in my area? Foggy, wet, dull, grey,...

  • Tenis Oakley February 12, 2011 01:20 pm

    I fall in love with Winter !!! And everytime I go to NY takes as many as possible photos with snow and cold. Unfortanely here in Colombia, we dont NEVER ever had snow.

  • Ben February 12, 2011 07:33 am

    great shots Valerie. I am also a native of MN and although I'm going a little crazy right for the reasons you mentioned, I do love winter and the variety it gives for photography.

    here are a couple blog post on my latest winter adventures:
    late night snowshoe
    Winter on the north shore

    the cold is only cold when you don't dress right .

  • Kris February 11, 2011 01:21 pm

    Love this article! I live in northern Wisconsin and just this week I reached the " tired of shooting snow, icy river, and winter landscapes stage. My photo collection is similar to those posted above...thanks for an inspiring article and a reminder that we aren't alone in this winter fever!

  • Valerie Jardin February 11, 2011 08:35 am

    @Bill, Thank you for the nice comment!
    @Charlotte: true, but since I shoot for a living all week, I like to shoot outdoors on weekends!

  • Hagen February 11, 2011 07:47 am

    Winter is a great time to practise looking for contrasts. Oh and B&W too.

    http://2hphotography.ca/promo/winter-a-great-simplifier/

    http://2hphotography.ca/promo/surreal-water-sacrificing-the-body/

  • Charlotte Andersen February 11, 2011 07:32 am

    Another possibility is to stay indoors, pull out the tripod, the flash, the macro lens and see what you can do with these items.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikonline/5428865241/

    I so agree, living in a black and white world for months is not great by the time you reach January!

  • Jenny February 11, 2011 06:22 am

    Valerie, I'm a San Diego native living in Mpls. I LOVE outdoor photography during the sane part of the year, but I admit I'm a wimp in the winter! I've decided after reading this point and looking at your beautiful photos, I will be a wimp NO MORE! :)
    I will don my hand/foot warmers, bundle up, and go get some great shots. Very inspiring, thank you!

    I'd totally be game for a photo walk one with some other TC enthusiasts one of these days.

    @Tom Gaitley, your photos are stunning. Kudos for your wader/snowshoe bravado!

  • Valerie Jardin February 11, 2011 06:04 am

    Tom,
    I should use one of those cards but I don't... I play with the exposure a lot. When in doubt I do exposure bracketing in camera and/or adjust the exposure in Lightroom if necessary.
    Valerie

  • Tom Gaitley February 11, 2011 05:32 am

    Valerie,

    Do you shoot a gray/white card to set your WB before you take your snow photos? Generally, on a bright, sunny day with predominately snow filling the frame, what do you use to get the white whites? I'm still striving to find that "in camera" solution rather than always fixing in post....Thanks, Tom

  • Krishna February 11, 2011 04:49 am

    This is a perfect post for me considering I live in Chicago and we were blasted by snowfall this winter. And this was exactly what I told me mother back home in India --- "....winter is boring and its just white everywhere. You take a photo and its white ... everything is white white white.....". I am really glad to see this post and after a week I am going to take my camera and see what I can capture :) Here are my blizzard pictures btw ... http://krishrao.com/2011/02/02/chicago-blizzard-picture-feb-2011/

    Thanks for this great post !

  • Bill Vriesema February 11, 2011 04:43 am

    Hi Valerie,
    Great post! It is very helpful to see what inspires others for winter scenes. You have wonderful shots!
    Bill

  • John February 10, 2011 06:18 am

    Valerie,
    Nice article. My Photography New Years resolution was to stop complaining about the the Gray Skies and cold and embrace them. I have gone on a few outings with my cross country skis and camera on my back. I use a storm Jacket for camera and a kayak water proof bag to keep condensation off gear once I return home. The most important thing is double layer socks and glove/ mitten combo. Thanks for a bit of inspiration.

  • Ruben February 10, 2011 04:02 am

    There was a problem embedding it :-(

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/elkabubi/5327195242/

  • Ruben February 10, 2011 04:01 am

    snow is nice even every single flake of snow. we are not able to see it on detail every day :-)
    I hope you like it.

    http://1year365fotos.blogspot.com/2011_01_02_archive.html

  • bexjarratt February 9, 2011 09:15 am

    Nice snow pictures. We've had weeks of miserable grey skies and drizzle. I would have been more inspired by snow, that's for sure!

  • Patricia Knight February 9, 2011 08:45 am

    I know how you all feel. I live in the desert so I have to deal with brown all year long. So when i find a splash of color in the desert, I photograph it all I can.

  • Valerie Jardin February 9, 2011 06:07 am

    Hi there! it's -7F (-14F Wind chill) this afternoon here in MN! Spring weather this weekend with near freezing temperatures expected though!

    @Tom, beautiful work!
    @Mully, cool shots, I have to experiment with light painting!
    @Ariana, I am glad my article served as an inspiration for you to get out and shoot more, even in the cold,. Days are getting longer...
    @Doug, I try to keep my extra batteries inside my jacket, they do run out quickly!
    @Jody I haven't been to the Como conservatory this winter yet.

    To all Minnesotan living in the TC on the forum, let's get together and shoot sometimes!

    You can see more of my work on my Smugmug gallery here:
    http://valeriejardinphotography.smugmug.com/

  • ArianaMurphy February 9, 2011 04:38 am

    Great article, Jody! Makes me want to go out and find something click-worthy.
    @ Tom It was worth it! Those are amazing photos!

    We've had a really hard winter here in southern Ontario, too. It's the short days that are frustrating - by the time you're off work, it's night. And weekends always seem to be very cold and snowy. Time to try some Still Life shots for the DPS Assignments!

    Doug, could we please have our birds back? We'll start with robins, the Herald of Spring. ;)

  • Erik Kerstenbeck February 9, 2011 03:18 am

    Hi

    Being a Canadian, I can relate to this article very well. I recall -40C weather and squeaky snow. I do have a few cool winter shot of some Hor Frost that I would like to share.

    Hor Frost in New Zealand: http://t.co/P2vz0cE

    Frosty Trees, New Zealand: http://t.co/dVFuqPD

    Blue Mist & Hor Frost, New Zealand: http://t.co/ZINHppo

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • kay February 8, 2011 11:18 pm

    This website is really a great helper for me as a photographer...thanks a lot to the editor..you are great..thanks again

  • Phil February 8, 2011 04:39 pm

    Thanks! Good encouragement - those are nice photos. Reading this makes me want to get out again this winter!

  • Wendy February 8, 2011 03:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing some inspiration for this dreary weather. I love the photo of the drift around the tree. Simple, yet beautiful!

  • John D February 8, 2011 12:39 pm

    Nice article.....gave me some inspiration....as I'm suffering from the "is winter over yet".......just got a new camera, and can't wait until spring...... Thanks for the article.

  • Mully410 February 8, 2011 12:29 pm

    Great shots, Valerie. I love living in Minnesota primarily because of the seasons. I can't imaging living somewhere with a static boring 80F and sunny every day.

    @Jody: Como is awesome. I love shooting there...mostly outside though. ;-)

    Don't forget about all great winter festivals in Minnesota. I shot the Fire Jam at the Luminary Loppet on Saturday. Awesome! http://www.flickr.com/photos/mully410/sets/72157625860968843/

  • Doug Sundseth February 8, 2011 11:58 am

    It's been a bit crisp around here (Colorado), too. Below zero (F), but not cold enough to prevent lunchtime walks (though camera batteries aren't too real happy).

    I found your missing migratory birds. 8-)

  • Jody February 8, 2011 11:42 am

    I'm also in Minnesota, but I cheated this weekend and went to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul.

  • Tom Gaitley February 8, 2011 10:23 am

    Valerie, I love your photos. I used to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and to this day, my favorite sound in the world is the squeaking and crunching of snow when it gets really cold. I try to beat the monotony of color by doing something really different to get the shot - so the whole experience, not just the photo, is memorable - which in turn adds to the moment of the images as well. This last one, for instance, I took last Friday after donning my waders, then snowshoeing down to the ocean through a park, to kneel in the surf to get an image of the Annisquam Lighthouse out in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Needless to say, anyone who saw me probably thought I was nuts, but what a great time!!!...and I think the images turned out nicely too

    http://www.thomasgaitley.com/Landscapes/Featured-Favorites/12387102_jvRRL#1179275370_qvQgA)

  • Valerie jardin February 8, 2011 08:28 am

    @Chris: thanks! The grass is always green on the other side! ;-) More subzero wind chills here this week, it's tough to stay motivated but you're right, having such dramatic changes in seasons really makes you appreciate little things!

  • PTL February 8, 2011 08:24 am

    The point of this article is to inspire people to look for things with colour and shape even in the blandest of environments like snow, with some fabulous examples. It's a good article :)

  • Chris February 8, 2011 08:08 am

    After growing up in a region with true seasons, I can appreciate your "dilemma", and your stunning photos of the one thing I truly miss from home.

    I now live in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, and I have a similar problem, but is is with the sun. We have over 300 days of sun! Some days are just too bright (or too hot).

  • ScottC February 8, 2011 07:04 am

    Yes, it does get cold: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4280952141/

    Not sure of the point of this article.

  • Neil February 8, 2011 06:33 am

    with all this snow, on the first day over 40 i had to get down to the beach... took this shot feb 6th!!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50432810@N05/5423210787/

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