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Winter; Love it or Hate it!

Winter sucks!  There.  I said it (I have been thinking it for the last month).  I have often, tongue-in-cheek, described my home in Saginaw, Michigan as “flat, brown and boring, unless you like power lines.”  But in winter, it actually changes from brown  to white (and then back to off-white or grey).  And here, Winter lasts for as long as 5 months, followed by about a
month of the brown “mud” season.  Maybe I am being
unfair to Saginaw.  I have certainly found a successful photographic image or two during the 25 years I have lived here.

Thinking back, I haven’t made a “successful” winter or snow image in years.  But I wonder if that isn’t my own fault?  Actually, to quote Jimmy Buffet, it is “my own damn fault.”  Winter–and snow–present some wonderful photographic opportunities.  Light, texture, color and shapes are all elements readily available in snow.  Water and ice are also prevalent and can create dynamic compositional elements and wonderful, contrasty, “black and white” or monochromatic images.

Snow images present challenges.  As a new photographer, I remember finding a bright yellow barn with a silver metal roof on a bright, snowy, sunny day.  I enthusiastically shot it, following the suggested setting on the “match-needle” metering on my new Canon SLR camera.  Afterward, I anxiously awaited the return of my mail-in slides, only to be crestfallen when the photographs came back severely underexposed!  How could that happen?  My “intuition” told me that if anything, that all that bright sunlight with white background and foreground would, if anything, cause my photo to be overexposed.  In reality, my meter did exactly what it was supposed to do (turn my beautiful white snow grey–hey, come to think of it, if I have been in Saginaw, I could have metered directly off that “neutral grey” snow).  In my view, bright conditions which provide high contrast in a monochromatic context are perhaps the most difficult of photographs.  Detail in the snow and other brightly reflected elements require attention exposure.  And with modern digital cameras, getting proper white balance (so we don’t get blue snow) is also an important consideration (although I tend to deal with that afterward in my RAW converter–you just had to know I couldn’t stay away some from “gear-based” technical discussion).

So, why have I not made any successful “Winter” images?  Its cold.  Its dark.  I am more comfortable sitting on the couch in front of my laptop.  I don’t have time.  Winter does that to me.  I really have no excuse.

I am posting this more than a week after I wrote the original text.  As I sat there thinking about blog topics that Sunday morning, it occurred to me that maybe I should have gone out and found a Winter photograph.  My personal challenge/commitment then and there was to get out and get at least one “successful” Winter photograph (I plan to
write a post in the future about my idea of a “successful” photograph) for illustration before I published this post.  On Saturday, I traveled to the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and found a small stream (The “Rapid River” — there is another “Rapid River” in the U.P.) and actually made some winter photographs.  The day was dull and grey; not the best light for photography.  But it was still a more fulfilling experience to be out in it than to sit on the couch and write about it!

Thanks for reading . . . . .


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