This morning I decided that it just didn't feel right to close out the year without one more visit to Whimsy Pond. We were enjoying another sunny day here, so I waited until about an hour before sunset to head over.
Once I got there and found a spot to park, I started walking along the road, examining the landscape and trying to figure out what I wanted to photograph. I heard a lone bird calling, and after a moment spotted it sitting up on a power line. When I got a closer look at the bird through my telephoto lens, I realized it wasn't one I immediately recognized. So I took a few photos in hopes of identifying it when I got home. It was on my second pass through my bird guide that I finally was able to put a name to the face: it was a female European Starling, sporting her winter plumage. Because I got very lucky with this particular image, despite the distance you can see some of the white speckles in her otherwise dark plumage—a visual that, according to my book, is the reason why they're called Starlings in the first place:
When the Starling departed a few minutes later, I turned my attention back to my surroundings. The pond itself was iced over and covered with snow, so instead I looked to the terrain on the other side of the road for things to photograph:
It took a bit of fiddling with my camera settings, but I finally managed to get a few shots that captured what I was seeing where the sunlight reflected off the snow. This time around the shadows aren't caused by trees or anything else out of frame, but by wind-carved ridges on the surface of the snow itself:
A light flare that I thought actually enhanced the image rather than detracted from it:
The last remnants of a milkweed pod backlit by the setting sun:
Finally, I just really liked the lighting in this shot: