What motivates you to take a great image? This is a story about our motivations for shooting on a snowy day in North Texas.


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Saturday, January 11, 2020

This was truly an amazing day! We awoke at 5:30 am ready to role. Today would be a busy day.  We needed to make sure we had time to eat breakfast, load equipment and arrive at a photo shoot by 8am.  The subject, youth basketball teams’ individual and group shots at Fit ‘N Wise in Decatur, TX. The forecast had mentioned rain and possible snow flurries in the morning. I remember thinking, “I sure am grateful the shoot was inside at the basketball gym, shooting outside on a day like today could be miserable!”  As we gassed up the Armada in Sanger, light snow was falling. The first snow of the year. Driving towards Decatur, the snowfall increased. By the time we arrived at the West house there was a blanket of snow on the ground. The door lock to our travel trailer was iced over.  Joe struggled to poke the key through the lock. Finally he resorted to splashing a bottle of water onto the lock to melt and loosen the iced over keyhole.  The chance of our shoot happening was looking slim.

We headed to Decatur town square for breakfast. The snow was falling even heavier now.  I looked towards the streetlights and saw the giant flakes dancing through the lights. I selfishly thought, “I hope the shoot cancels!” I turned to Joe and said, “We have to gab a camera and take 5 minutes to  shoot this.  It is orgasmic!”  We exited the vehicle and saw the waitress from the cafe standing on the sidewalk, cell phone in hand. She, too, was drawn to capture the majestic, first snowfall. We walked towards her and she told us, “We are closing. Most of our employees can’t make it to work.” Hopes dashed for a hearty breakfast, we turned our attention back to the snow. The sun was not yet up. The air was crisp and cold.  I stuck out my tongue, to catch a taste of the falling powder.

Standing in the middle of the road, hands outstretched, eyes towards the sky and grinning from ear to ear, I felt a sense of bliss as Joe snapped a shot. In the predawn darkness, the yellow and red lights from the buildings reflected on the snow. Through the lens, the puffy snowflakes gleamed in the light.  This was going to be a great day!

The call came a few minutes later, as we sat in the McDonald’s parking lot eating our biscuit, egg and cheese sandwiches.  The shoot has been rescheduled for the following week. YES!!! we get to play in the snow! Joe and I, both in our 50’s, felt like 10 year olds who just found out school was cancelled and they get to go sledding all day. Yahoooooooo!!! We turned our thoughts from positioning of backdrops and light stands to …”Let’s drive around in the snow and see what we can capture!”  Snow days don’t happen very often in in our part of North Texas.  As a matter of fact, many years go by without a hint of snow.  Today was a gift.

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The streets were mostly empty as the sun started to rise, relflecting the pure white of the snow. Passing a corner farmer’s market, Joe is drawn to the multi-colored lights hanging from the eaves of the wooden building. The scene could have been from the 1950’s instead of 2020. The warm glow of the lights illuminated the grey, weathered wood of the fruit stand. Empty pallets sat, gathering snow, waiting to be loaded with the weeks bounty of fruits and vegetables. One of our favorite photographic activities is something Joe calls, ‘Sunday Morning Sidewalks’. Places generally packed with the hustle and bustle of people, cars and activity are quiet and empty on Sunday mornings. Today’s winter weather has turned our Saturday shoot into a Snowy morning sidewalk shoot.

snow day in Decatur0324After capturing the fruit stand, we decided to head back up to the town square. A news crew from WFAA, channel 8 news, had been there since the early morning hours, as well. They, too, believed this to be the perfect backdrop for the days’ winter wonderland. We parked our car and had to search for winter gloves and hats on the floor board before exiting the vehicle. This treat had taken us by surprise. The historic courthouse and down home feel of the storefronts were coming alive with the light of day. Grey snow of the night turned to glistening white with the warm glow of the sun. The courthouse, built in 1895, has a dusting of snow on the roof. On the grounds around the building, there was not a single footstep to break the perfect carpet of white. This scene, just as the fruit stand, would have looked surprisingly the same 50 years ago. Walking around the square, the next place that caught my eye was a restaurant on the corner of Main and State Street, Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes.  This place has stayed true to the old time, western feel. Wooden slat walls and log hewn benches surround the red lights from the neon entrance sign; the only clue that we are in the 21st century and not early 20th. The red light, however, was one of the keys that drew us to this corner.

snow day in Decatur0319 HDR Edit“Stop…” Joe shouted as I made my way towards the corner.  The snow on the road was unbroken…not a footstep nor tire track to disturb the site before our eyes. This shot screamed the need to be undisturbed. Earlier in the morning we shot footsteps in the snow, leading towards Trinity Street Coffee Bar and Rooster’s Roadhouse.  For this image, he wanted something different.snow day in Decatur0376

We traversed the town square for about an hour. It was about 8:30 am. We stopped to say hello to the fellow photographer and journalist from the news crew. Trinity Street Coffee Bar beckoned to us. Time to get warm on the inside and out. “Let’s get a coffee!” Joe said emphatically.The bar is known for hand crafted coffee in the morning and adult beverages in the evening, a cool place. I ordered a coffee with vanilla and Joe decided to add a touch of caramel to his concoction. The barista took time to design the perfect heart with swirls in the foam of my drink and placed the steaming beverage on the bar. That is too pretty to drink, I thought. ” Hey, let’s take a pic of the coffee in the snow!” I exclaimed to Joe. Before touching the cup to my lips, Out the door we went. Joe looked around and placed the cup in the morning snow. After shooting a couple of angles, our favorite was the coffee in the snow with the courthouse softly blurred in the background, the perfect shot….Well, if would have been steaming, that would have made it REALLY perfect. Joe always says that the same thing holds true on any shoot. ” There is what you want, what there is and what you get.” We were both happy with what we got on this one.

snow day in Decatur0492snow day in Decatur0369OK, time for a change of scenery. “Let’s see what else we can find” Joe said as we headed for the SUV. Today is a day we are glad to be driving a 4-wheel drive! Driving around town a quaint little, white church with a red door drew our gaze. Joe made the block and we parked on the opposite side of the street. There was a yellow glow of light streaming from the arched windows of the entrance. It reminded me of twilight. Later we posted the image and Roy Eaton, local celebrity journalist and owner if the Wise County Messenger commented, “reminds me of Vermont”, great description. The snow covered ground, small white church, surrounded by trees. I worked through shooting HDR images of the church while Joe focused on the play of the ice crystals on the door handle of our vehicle and snow covered wheels, leading to the road beyond. That is when the moment you can’t plan for happened. Joe noticed a woman bundled up in coat, gloves and a bright yellow tabogan walking her dogs across the street about a block away. By the time he saw it, she had already crossed the street and the image he wanted was gone. “Wait!! Hey there!” I yelled to the unsuspecting subject, “Can we take your picture?” She turned around with a smile on her face and started walking towards us. Most people, if you ask nicely,  really do want to be involved in making an image. In perfect irony, Joe captured an image with all 3 dogs looking right at him, while there human counterpart looks down to adjust her gloves.

What an exceptional end to an amazing morning of playing in the snow!

Sunday Morning Sidewalk on a Saturday!!!


Written by Lisa Duty

Photos by Joe and Lisa Duty

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