Winter Scenes: Pros and Cons

Wagon in Winter, near Palo, Linn County, Iowa

I love a good winter photo.  Especially when you can grab the texture of the snow, and double-especially when you can catch shimmering glints of sunlight reflecting off the snowflakes.

Take this photo, for example:  I shot this back in 2005/06, my first winter in Iowa.  It is down the road from where my photo club meets, and I stopped and shot this on the way in.  There was something about the whole scene that appealed to me.  It evokes a peaceful feeling, a quietness.  It is actually somebody’s front yard, but is cropped well.  It also helps that it has the aspects mentioned above, the texture and the glints of reflective light.

Those are the pros.  But, I don’t have very many winter shots, because of the cons.  What are the cons, you ask?  Well, there’s only one.  It’s cold.

Yes, that’s right, I am a west coast, “first world” American, and I am not overly enamored with the cold.  It’s really that simple.  I admire photographers who routinely go out every week in the winter to get a shot.  That takes perseverance and dedication.  Then again, for many of these people photography is literally their bread-and-butter.  For me it’s more of a sidelight.  I still need to keep my day-job.

Take yesterday and today, as a case in point.  It’s been absolutely beautiful.  Fresh snow.  Fluffy-type snow, which is best for those reflecting sunlight glints I keep mentioning.  Clear blue skies.  Everything needed for a truly nice winter photo.  Unfortunately, it’s also been about -2 degrees… and that’s the high!  Wind chills have been -20 degrees, and lower.  Brrr… I’ve been staying inside, working on my websites and blogs, and catching up on things that way.

Many of the winter shots that I do have were taken when I was driving from one place to another and happened to have my camera with me, which I will continue to do.  Stay tuned.  🙂

Red Barns and White Snow

Red Barn and Farm in Winter, near Ely, Linn County, Iowa

Makes for a nice contrast-y combination, don’t you think?  Everything is easily discernible.  The barn just “pops”.  There’s a sense of stillness in this photo.  It’s obvious this is a working farm, as evidenced by the items carefully stored outside.  There’s also a sense of… almost hibernation.  Activity is on hold, most equipment has been stored inside protected from the elements.  You can bet the farmers are inside, enjoying the warmth that modern life affords them.  One would think they’re sitting by the fire, sipping a hot drink, partaking in a favorite leisure activity, and basking in a well-earned rest, but they’re probably actually actively planning and doing paperwork for the next season.  No rest for the weary, as the old saying goes.

I shot this a couple years ago not too far from where I live.  This weekend I was finishing up re-processing all my existing photos that I currently have offered for sale, and came across this one.  I’ve always liked it, the contrasts and all, but never knew what to do with it.  The white sky overwhelmed everything else.  The eye was drawn too much to the white sky and away from everything else.

By cropping it to a 2:1 ratio mini-panorama format the whole feeling of the photo is reversed.  Now, the white sky is just a complimentary aspect to the overall scene.  Now, the red barns dominate the scene and draw the eye, as it should be.  You’re now focused on the primary aspects of the image.  We have wonderful processing tools available these days, and can manipulate in ways that just a few years ago were unimaginable, but it’s amazing how often something like a simple crop is what makes the difference.

Winter: Goodbye to you!

Stacked firewood in snow in winter

Who remembers a 1980s rock band called Scandal?  They did a song called Goodbye to You that was actually pretty good.  That song echoes my sentiments regarding winter precisely.  We just had our first snow storm in a couple months this past week.  It wasn’t much, but enough to cause some minor havoc.  And with that I am officially done with winter.  I say, “Winter… goodbye to you!”

This time of year is the toughest time to shoot, in my opinion, because everything looks so dull and dreary.  The snow that is on the ground is lackluster and unappealing.  It’s really the best time of year to catch up on photo processing, since there’s not a whole lot to shoot.

I also like the idea of doing some indoor experimenting with still life, cut flowers, and so on.  I have some ideas that involve props and backgrounds that could come out quite nicely.  I also want to do some experimenting with photo stacking.

This shot was taken near Palo, Iowa, on a back road.  One of those days where I was driving along and had to stop and see what I could do with the scene.  Chances are that I will never sell this shot, and it will probably never end up on my wall, but it does have a nice look to it regardless.  Sometimes the lesson is simply the enjoyment of the art.

Winter Serenity

Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan
Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan

If there is an area where my selection of photos is lacking it is winter and snow scenes.  I have a handful of really good ones, just not a whole lot.  On a recent weekend trip to Michigan for Christmas with Missy’s family I wanted to make some progress toward rectifying that.

Like so many of my shots this one was in a place where I didn’t think I was going to get much, then suddenly I look to my left and there it is.  What I think appealed to me was the combination of frost on the trees, some green from evergreens, and the rust-ish colors from leaves that haven’t fallen.  I took only two shots at this location.