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The Gift of Snow
Jeff Rennicke, English and Photography Teacher

CS20  (Spring 2020) Nature Photography students re-create a 1950's legend to share the beauty, challenges, and joys of winter.

It must have seemed like something from another world: a massive commercial airplane rolling to a stop on the runway at the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport, filled not with passengers but full of snow. 

For three winters in a row from 1952-1955, Eastern Airlines delivered a planeload of New York Christmas snow to the children of Puerto Rico. Many of whom would never otherwise experience the treasures of winter, a gift from Felisa Rincon de Gautier (affectionately known as "Dona Fela), the mayor of San Juan. Asked by reporters how long she expected the snow to last, Dona Fela answered with a twinkle in her eye "long enough to throw a few snowballs!" And, long enough to create lifelong memories for hundreds of Puerto Rico's children.

The Snow Plane flies no more, but this week in Nature Photography, students undertook a project based on the story of Dona Fela and her unique gift by photographing and writing about the joys, challenges, and beauties of snow and imagining how their words and photographs would open the eyes of the children of Puerto Rico to the treasures of winter.

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Below is a selection of photographs and notes created and written by the CS20 Nature Photography Class to share the beauty of the winter world:

Eva M: In this photograph, we decided to capture snow being caught on someone's tongue to highlight the bliss of snowfall. The subject of the picture, Eva, is in focus, and the background of the photo is blurred, but the green of the trees is still visible, contrasting the purple turtleneck. The geometric earrings especially stand out, the gold color juxtaposes the dark color of Eva's hair. You can see the snow in her hair and around her face, but you can also see the blurred snow falling in the background. The tongue out and lack of eye contact creates an air of playfulness and curiosity and emphasizes fun in the snow. 

Eva H: This photograph depicts Eva blowing snow out of her hands. Both Eva and the snow are caught in action. The snowflakes are clear as they fly through the air, and they contrast the blurred background. The use of bokeh draws attention to the focus of this picture. It is common for kids to pick up snow in their hands and blow it up in the air to make the snowfall back onto themselves or someone else. This picture captures a moment of joy and liveliness. Because Eva's eyes are closed; therefore, no eye contact, the emotion is intensified and produces a sense of wonder. 

Avery: Nothing brings out a person's competitive nature quite like a good snowball fight. The feeling of hurling a ball of powdery fluff at someone brings such joy to us. Playing in the snow is a great way to melt away stress and anxiety. Snowball fights are also good for us physically. It provides an opportunity to go outside in the dead of winter. We often feel like staying inside by the fire on cold days. However, nobody turns down a snowball fight.

Lizzy C: It may seem counterintuitive to build a shelter out of the very thing we try to escape when we are cold. However, as you can see in this photo, inside of a Quinzee, it is nice and cozy. The snow fort keeps us out of the wind and is a great place to warm up after a night of sledding. Even though Quinzees are warmer than outside, I would still suggest wearing as many layers as possible. The process of building a Quinzee includes lots of shoveling and digging. They may take a while to build, but in the end, they are worth the energy.

Clio MJ: The best way to describe how it feels to play in the snow is a big, fat grin. Here, snow frames Eva's said smiling face in a hail of geometric pieces. Although she was throwing snow, time feels frozen here; The shapes are suspended in air, defying gravity. At the same time, the snow spreads across the frame, with smaller flakes flecking the sky to create a faux snowfall. Having the snow in focus but her face just a bit more so, lets us gravitate towards her and then follow the snow explosion left. And the photo feels like one big, fat grin. 

Lizzy G: This photograph depicts Clio's face covered in the snow. Based on her smile, there is an automatic emotional response. She appears to be having fun, even though a face full of snow is sometimes unpleasant. Clio is the main subject of this photograph, and the background is still visible but blurred. The darkness of the trees contrast the lightness of the snow, and the color in Clio's hair, as well as the blue on her collar, makes the picture pop. There are also dramatic shadows in the snow, which are very prominent and catch the eye. Since the bokeh in the photo is not too dramatic, you can still make out the scenery in the background of the photo. 

Ally G: This photo depicts Emma doing the "Silly Salmon." The clarity of the background in contrast to the blur of the subject shows movement. Her feet and hands show that she is moving through the air, about to land in the snow. Also, this photo depicts joy and emotion, as you can see, she is really enjoying doing this. The snow on her clothes also shows that this is not her first time doing the silly salmon. Lastly, her stance in the air appears to symbolize anticipation, and this layer of emotion adds more to the photograph. 

Kat J: This photograph shows the less exciting part of living in a winter climate: shoveling. In this picture, you can see the motion through Andrew's body as he swings the shovel behind his back. The clear, small particles of snow in the air give off a light, breezy effect, which may make the audience think that shoveling is easier than it seems. Andrew's clothes don't especially pop in this picture because all of the dark colors blend together. The big attention grabber in this picture is the glistening snow in the air, which was able to be captured by using a fast shutter speed and a deep depth of field. 

Sam V: This photograph shows the small details of winter. When something walks in winter, they leave a print in the snow. In fresh snow, we get to leave even fresher prints. This is a footprint in the snow in a tight one-track trail from others that have explored the woods. The background is blurry, but you can still see the continence of the trail ahead. The one track trail isn't very big, as you can see in the picture. This photo makes me wonder where this person was going and what they were exploring. With the magic of snow and the memory, we leave behind what is to come with one print in the snow.

Nyah L: This image was intended to capture the act of eating snow, which brings me back to my childhood. It is hard to describe the taste of snow. In a sense, snow has no taste at all. Snow doesn't quite taste like water nor ice; it is a whole different experience altogether. Looking at this image reminds me of when I was a child, and the joy I'd get out of scooping up a large hunk of snow and taking a bite of it. Although eating it would leave me cold, it was all part of the fun of winter. Eating snow is not for the taste, but much rather, it is about the memories attached to it. 

Maddie K: We all know that the snow can be breathtaking, whether that's from cold or beauty; it depends on the person. Combine the snow with zooming down a hill at top speed, and you're not going to be breathing at all. While you do have to make the cold trek up the hill with your tube, it's worth it for the thrill you get going down. You rush down the hill, some people jump or spin, and the cold air hits your face and snowdrifts onto your eyelashes. You might even get separated from your sled. You yell, and then you land in a snowbank with a big thump. Just like that, it's over, and you jump up ready for more. 

Zach H: While snow is fun to throw and blow, unlike sand, it is just as fun to lie in. imagine yourself tanning on the beach, but instead, you are in a couple of inches deep snow and if you move your arms and legs in and out. It will create a figure looking somewhat like an angel, hence the name snow angel. Making a snow angel in your front yard at ten at night with the street lights dull glow and fresh snow falling from the sky right into your eyes and mouth is the best way to celebrate winter in my opinion, but daytime snow angles may have to suffice for right now. They are just as fun, and I hope you kids can find other places to make "snow" angels.

Emma B: While snow is a great excuse to play outside, snow also provides a reason for delicious hot cocoa. The only way to survive the harsh winters of the Northwoods with blistering winds and cold is with hot chocolate. This watered-down version is still a treat, not only tasty but also functional. Having your hands upon a mug thaws them while drinking the saccharine liquid warms the body. Snow and cocoa perfectly balance each other out; they are both essential to a true Northwoods winter.

Andrew P: Lots of people enjoy swimming during the summer as a way to cool off and have some fun splashing around, but few have tried the more frigid "snow swimming." This photo shows Ally and Kat diving headfirst into the waist-deep snowbanks. At first, the rapid temperature change is a shock, and it makes your heart race. The cold snow is invigorating and fills you with a short burst of energy until you start turning into a human icicle. It is a great experience that anyone would be lucky enough to experience, and if you ever get the chance, I urge you to try it. 

Charles W: One of winter's most classic activities is a snowball fight. Whether it's you and your friends or a whole block of kids, snowball fights are fun for any age. Snowball fights can also happen at any time or any place; all you need is snow. It's never been so easy to wage an all-out war with your neighbors than a well-placed snowball to the back. If you are ever outside with friends, family, or even complete strangers and there happens to be snow, you know what to do. Best wishes from the Northwoods 

Brennain: Falling snow is so exciting because it means there will be snow on the ground soon. Sometimes it feels like a celebration of itself, like confetti falling just because of the snow. It is really beautiful too. There are many different types of snowfall. All of them are beautiful but especially the little flurries and when the snow falls in big clumps. My personal favorite thing about falling snow is how easy it is to catch an individual snowflake on your glove to see its beauty up close. I know snow doesn't come to Puerto Rico, but I do hope you get to see falling snow someday.

Photos contributed by CS20 Nature Photography Class. Cover photo by Emily Hayne, Photography Teaching Fellow.