Well, the seasons have changed again. At times like this, I like to reflect on change. So much can change over the course of a single year, and we simply pass it by on our commute to work. A landscape or a subject that appears uninteresting one time of the year could be gorgeous in one to two months time. You don’t really know until you get out there and experience it yourself. In this article, I urge you to think about the seasons in a totally new way.
What can change over a year?
I know this sounds corny, but I like to think of the Earth as one giant spaceship. We’re flying in an orbit around the sun, and as we move across it, different parts of the ship light up in different ways. There are times of the year when the sun just barely grazes across the sky and other times when it just sits up there for hours on end. During the fall, the trees become much more colorful, and during the winter, they rapidly lose all color almost overnight.
In other words, what wasn’t very interesting not too long ago soon comes into its prime. You simply need to be there to capture it. You also need an imagination. I like to keep a map of all the subjects I’ve shot over the course of an entire year. I look at the photos and imagine them with some snow. Then I imagine what the scene might look like in the fall. If it’s interesting enough, I put it in my scheduler and head out there early in the morning that time of year. For example, most of the time, the California desert to the right is a washed out wasteland. That is, except for a few days in the spring when it turns into this.
Consider where the sun will be
Some scenes are so rare that they only happen once or twice a year. If the weather doesn’t work out, they might not happen at all. Why is this so? It has to do with the position of the sun in the sky. Certain types of pictures only work when the sun is just right. If the sun isn’t there, the image will appear washed out or colorless.
I like to call these photo opportunities my secret treasures. They only happen a few times a year, but when they do happen, they are sight to be seen. They’re secret because you have to identify them all on your own. There is no all encompassing manual telling you to head out to a certain set of coordinates on a certain day to get this one amazing photo. Come to think of it, our job isn’t all that different from that of an astronomer who witnesses the changes in the night sky over the course of a year.
Once you do encounter one of these secret treasures, you need to make a note of it so you can come back and capture it again. To do that, you have to consider how far away you are from the last solstice or equinox. The sun will be in the same position on the other side of the solstice. So...
If you are ten days before the summer solstice, your next opportunity will happen ten days after it. Similarly, if you are ten days after the winter solstice, your next opportunity will happen ten days before the next winter solstice (almost an entire year into the future).
All of this is worth considering. It is much better to keep your eyes open before a solstice than it is to keep your eyes open after it. That way, you can come back prepared to capture the image you missed last time (and you don’t have to wait an entire year to do it). That’s the problem with secret treasures. You often find them when you don’t have your camera on you.
Lastly, Consider Frost
All it takes is a dip in temperature to make everything around you so much more interesting to photograph. I remember traveling to New Zealand and being blow away with the winter frost down there. I think it’s because of the oceanic climate. There is a lot more moisture in the air. It condenses on everything, coating it with a beautifully thick layer of frost.
So don’t get sad the next time the thermostat changes. It might just be your next big photo op. I love getting out there and rediscovering new places with the changing of the seasons. What’s your favorite thing to photograph again and again?
Get more ideas for photographing all year around with "Photograph Your Year". Every week for a year, I'll guide your photography with plenty of ideas and practical advice. Sometimes we'll follow the seasons (for example you'll learn how to express 'cold' in a photo during Winter). Other times we'll concentrate on worldwide celebrations (for example the amazing 'Endings' topic in December). Read More...
Most people think this post is Interesting. What do you think?