Whooper Swans, Japan

Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner, National Geographic

Innocence, purity, peace. The color white evokes images of everything from brides to blizzards, from cleanliness to a blank canvas. Its meaning in culture and custom throughout history is as varied as its range of shades. See how white shows up in the unexpected and the everyday in this gallery.

Here, whooper swans take flight above a frozen landscape in Japan. The swans take off mostly on water, but can also do so on solid ground, using a short run and beating their massive wings to achieve liftoff.

(For more pictures of the amazing colors of our world, buy the National Geographic book Life in Color.)