Monday, January 18, 2010
Winter Landscapes 101—01/18/10
Make the most of winter weather for unusual photographs
- If it snows, go. Snow is universally interesting. A fresh blanket of snow makes literally any scene—from cityscape to great, open plain—inherently more unique, so it’s ideal for a more interesting photograph. Snow eliminates unnecessary details, allowing light and shadow to come to the fore. It acts as a natural fill light, reflecting every ambient light source and creating an otherworldly glow in daylight as well as after dark.
- Gray skies? Cheer up. Steel-gray skies and stormy days can make for dramatic scenes just as bright blue sunny days can. Sure, clear-sky sunsets can be photogenic, but so are dramatic roiling clouds or scenes composed of a monotone palette. Eliminating bright colors in favor of neutral tones can make graphic shapes take the fore in your compositions.
- Color becomes less important, so form, light and shadow become the focus. Look for soft light from cloudy, rainy or snowy days. It changes the look of a scene, making shadows less dramatic and allowing subtle colors, patterns and details to come through. Downed leaves and damp stone surfaces shine uniquely in these conditions—which is why so many esteemed landscape photographers don’t stay inside on unappetizing days. They’ve all got some variation on the subtle details in their portfolios—and many of them are made in foul weather. The quiet winter landscape is equally photogenic as the loud and boisterous summer one—it just speaks in a different way.
- Transition times create key contrasts. The juxtaposition of an early snow on still-colorful foliage creates a poignant picture opportunity. So does the first bud pushing through moist soil toward the coming spring. Juxtapositions abound at the edges of winter, at times when the seasons collide and create special moments that almost always make for interesting photos.
- Wherever you go, find the water. Just like summer landscapes can be made more interesting with moving water, so can winter landscapes benefit from the inclusion of frozen water in all its forms. From partially- and fully-frozen lakes, streams and rivers, to the frozen water droplets and icicles that cling to surfaces like tree limbs and other dormant flora. Not only does light reflect distinctly off of ice, it refracts through it dramatically too. Where there is water in virtually any form, there is bound to be a photograph—no matter what season you’re shooting.