On my favorite days in winter, the light is soft and very different than the light at other times of the year. Unlike the harsh sunlight of summer, the winter light is often softer and more yellow. If you notice on those days, you'll see that the winter sun is veiled by thin, white, high clouds. It's what gives the soft light of winter its distinctive look and feel. And with no leaves on the trees, the shadows are more open - you can see right into them - unlike when they go deep black in the summer. The winter sun is almost always at a low angle in the sky giving that yellow, glare of light that illuminates everything more evenly than the harsh summer sun.
On one of those winter days, a late December Friday before Christmas, it was time for my third annual December Hawk Mountain hike. It was 45 degrees and calm - with the soft winter sun shining and providing warmth against the cool air. It was perfect winter weather for a hike. And while I didn't cover a lot of ground, I saw much. There was a little snow and ice on the trails left over from the dusting the week before.
The image above caught my eye because one rock was lit by the soft yellow winter sunlight while the others were colored by the cool blue open shadows cast by larger rocks. The day started off sunny but the clouds were moving in quickly and the blue patch of sky completed the image for me. An hour later and the Mountain was under the dull light of a cloudy sky. It was time to pack up and head back down the mountain and look forward to another trip sometime soon.