One disturbing symptom of global warming, to those of us above a certain age, is that what I think of as proper winters have become rare in Britain. So rare, in fact, that we’ve had to wait about thirty years for a proper snowfall. As I recall, there was a string of mild winters in the mid to late eighties . . . which gradually became perceived as normal winters . . .
. . . And now, suddenly, it’s quite comforting (unless out in it) to have a normal winter for once. Finally! Except everyone is acting as though it’s never happened before.
I had forgotten a few things about these winters. For example, the noise that the snow makes when it decides it’s time to slide off the roof. But also—if I ever noticed it in the first place—the effect on the light outside.
Close to midnight, several nights running, I was struck by how remarkably light it was outside even with a cloudy sky. Almost as if the sun hadn’t quite finished going down and it were still dusk. I could see things quite clearly which normally would be in darkness. And the clouds in the sky seemed more visible than usual, too.
On reflection, this isn’t too surprising, for the simple reason that snow is white and therefore reflects a lot of light. Several things can happen:
- Buildings and other surroundings that would normally just be illuminated by the sky will be illuminated by the ground as well, as the “snowlight” reflects onto them.
- The “snowlight” can reflect back up onto the underside of the clouds.
- Streetlights, which in places like Manchester already provide significant amounts of light pollution, will also be reflected off the snow onto the underside of the clouds, illuminating the sky a lot more than it usually would.
So I wondered: Is there enough light for my phone camera to manage to take a reasonable photo? I don’t have any way to control how long an exposure it uses, but on the other hand I do have a mini-tripod attachment for it and it does do OK at dusk . . . I expect the result will be quite grainy, but that might suit the kind of photo I’m taking, so let’s have a go . . .
Well, judge for yourself. The original photos I took did rather support my theory about the street lights, by having a very yellow underside to some of the clouds. The effect was a bit horrible. I converted them to black and white. Here’s my favourite of the resulting pictures:
That’s actually a detail of this larger photo:
Here’s a different cropped detail of the same photo. Though the tower crane, to the right of the house, is perhaps a bit of a blemish, I was surprised how clearly it shows up considering the graininess of the image.
And here, for reference, is one of the colour photos, showing the yellow light pollution in all its “glory”:
The photos are all taken on a SonyEricsson C905 camera phone, set to 3Mp resolution.