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photo by epicurean via iStock
Do you remember that scene in the original 1993 Jurassic Park movie where Dr. Grant and the young boy were racing down the tree to escape the car falling and then the car falls on top of them again and Tim says, “Well... we're back... in the car, again...” ? That’s the feeling many of us have this time of year as landscape photographers, especially during this pandemic year.
This time of year, depending on your location, the nice bright colors of Fall are gone, the beautiful snowscapes of Winter have yet to show, and we wake up each day, look outside, and say to ourselves something similar to Tim’s lament.
Photographically, as a landscape or nature photographer, we may feel that we’re between seasons and there is nothing good to see or do. What it really means for us is that, just like Dr Grant and Timmy, we simply have to find some other way around, something else to do. Let’s take a look at our options during our own personal Blah Period.
Black and White
photo by kenlh via iStock
It’s not cheating. If the colors are gone from our landscapes, shoot some creative black and white images. The entire world used to be photographed in black and white and then slowly color creeped into popular and artful photography.
Black and white photos still look good today. Current post-processing programs allow us to work with digital image files in much the same way that photographers work with film, paper, and chemicals. We can adjust contrast levels and change the exposure value of the highlights, mid range, and shadows. Depending on how we captured the image, we could even mimic an infrared (IR) picture.
photo by Eric Hameister via iStock
Much of the true nature of the science of photography can be learned by B&W imaging, which leads us to more creative control of any of our photographic endeavors.
One of my favorite classic photographers is Ansel Adams, a master of outdoor and landscape photography. Along with Fred Archer, he created a system of controlling every aspect of exposure and contrast in a B&W photo called the Zone System.
In the Zone System, tones from the deepest black to the brightest white were assigned a value from O to X (zero to ten). Darkest black was Zone O, brightest white Zone X, and middle gray (18% gray) at Zone V.
By using the concept of Previsualization, we examine a scene and decide what Zone to put the different exposure values (EV) on. Then we control everything else to make it happen that way. With film based photography, we would choose the film, how to expose it, what paper to print it on, and even the chemicals used to achieve the results we previsualized.
Digitally, we will choose what ISO to use, the file type and color space, and then how to adjust the file in post processing for the same things. As you could well imagine, learning the previsualization technique through the Zone System will improve all aspects of our digital photography, not just B&W landscapes
Outdoor Macro Photography
photo by Andrey Danilovich via iStock
When the sky is grey and overcast, the low contrast light quality is fantastic for outdoor macro photography. Sometimes, it’s hard to get an extreme close up of some subjects with lots of detail because of the high contrast of directional light.
Outdoor natural or manmade subjects for macro photography in the doldrum between seasons might include fallen leaves, insect husks, tree bark, wood fence rails, frost on a windshield, or even the remains of a long dead campfire. If we think about it, we can come up with dozens of subjects with fine detail in the macro range that we can capture under this light quality.
Once you see the fine lines of a dried leaf in extreme detail under a gray sky, you’ll never look at a weather forecast with disdain again.
Still Life Composition
photo by Sergeeva via iStock
The landscape around us may not be at all interesting, even in black and white, so why not craft our own natural compositions with a still life? Sunny day or cloudy, in color or B&W, a still life can be a fun exercise in controlling composition.
I like to use my backyard picnic table or walk down to the park for theirs and pile various items on it as a still life. Acorns or pecans, pine cones, feathers, leaves, my gloves and wool hat, a muffin and cup of coffee, so many objects can be used.
Challenge yourself to arrange the items and pick camera positions for an even half dozen compositions to start with. Play with light, contrast, depth of field, exposure. Before you know it, you’ll have an entire day’s worth of viewing and processing to do after shooting.
photo by fbxx via iStock
This season is actually one of my favorite seasons for shooting the stars and other heavenly sights. The temperatures may be a little chilly at night, but that is actually a good thing for astrophotography. (Bonus tip: big meteor showers late Fall early Winter)
The cooler general temperatures and moderate ranges of temps from day to night means that there is less chance for thermal disturbances in the upper and lower atmosphere which can adversely affect clear light transmission. Besides, some of my favorite deep sky objects are higher in the sky this time of year.
Reprocess Existing Image Files
photo by AleksandarGeorgiev via iStock
If we find ourselves stuck inside a lot for whatever reasons, taking the time to play with our existing image files might be rewarding.
Perhaps we can finally try out a technique we’ve been meaning to learn or perfect. Or maybe we can creatively adjust an old pic by changing contrasts, color saturation, or by adding a special effect such as solarization or cross processing.
Book a Photo Tour
photo by guvendemir via iStock
The upcoming dead of Winter is a prime time to take a photo tour of a foreign country or to research and book one if we’re not quite ready to travel out of the country yet. Many fine photo tours are filling up right now, you might look at a few we’ve posted in recent articles.
Or you can create your one one tank photo tour and trip. Get online and see what sights are within a couple of hundred miles of you. Oftentimes, a person can find lots of great photo subjects by treating their hometown as though they were a tourist. Try it out!
Our Blah Period
photo by m-imagephotography via iStock
Just as Picasso’s Blue Period resulted in a fantastic array of beautiful art, our own personal blah periods of seemingly dismal photographic opportunities may actually end up increasing our creative skills and our own array of beautiful photographic art.
Sure, we’re stuck in this time of year... again, but all we really have to do is think of something different to do to wake up our creativity and enjoy our seemingly blah landscapes.