Use It Or Lose It

November 16, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

The Neglected Fence IIThe Neglected Fence IIDerelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence (Bonneville County, Idaho) This is a busy time of year, especially with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season kicking into high gear. It sometimes feels as if there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. 

After New Year's it seems a good time to catch your breath: maybe pull out some good books, plop into an easy chair and relax in front of the fire. Hanging out indoors is enticing when it's freezing outside.

Then just like that it's March and you realize you haven't touched your camera since foliage season.

Don't let that happen.

The longer you stay away from photography, the more difficult it is to get back into the groove - not to mention the many opportunities you'll be missing if you abstain from shooting over the winter.

Especially for those who are newer to photography, long layoffs tend to negatively impact technical proficiency. If there's not yet enough "muscle memory" in terms of operating your gear, you may find yourself struggling to recall various functions. Likewise, if you haven't processed any images for a few months you may have difficulty remembering how to perform certain tasks in Lightroom and/or Photoshop.

Relearning what you once knew is not only a chore, but also might cost you some photographs. Opportunities are often fleeting. Fumbling as you try to remember how to do something, the moment passes. 

Creativity also suffers from lack of "exercise." Some workouts can be achieved without a camera in hand, like developing observational skills. Do that anytime and anywhere. But there's nothing like spending time with your camera to cultivate artistic development. In some ways, creativity is like a muscle. It atrophies if it sits idle for too long.

As for opportunities associated with winter photography, there are several:

Quality of Light
The light this time of year is fantastic; the further north you are the better it gets. Because the sun is low in the sky all day long, shadows are long and dramatic. The light is soft.

Elbow Room
There are far fewer people out shooting over the winter months. National Parks are delightfully uncrowded. 

Striking Winter Palette
Stripped down to its essence, the winter landscape offers its own special charm. You might be treated to something quiet and subdued - a monochromatic scene - or see a range of icy colors. 

Ice. Snow. Hoarfrost. Contrast. Texture. The graceful lines of bare trees. The landscape at rest is quite beautiful.

Short Days
This is the one time of year nature photographers can actually get some sleep. Sunrise is late and sunset early. It's almost civilized!  

Maybe you'd like to venture out but the roads are treacherous and giving you pause. Believe me, I can relate. Eastern Idaho has yet to fully embrace the snowplow. Here in Idaho Falls it routinely takes days to clear the roads after a storm (at which point many of them have long-since been transformed into sheets of ice). I can't image what they'd do with a New England-style Nor'easter.

I digress. If you're not feeling like braving slippery roads, go ultra-local. Grab the camera and explore on foot. You may not have to walk far to find something interesting; start with your own backyard. The two photos I've posted are examples of the ultra-local approach: that derelict buck and rail fence is on public land near my house here in Idaho. I made the image below during an aggressive snowstorm while standing just a few feet from my back door in New Hampshire. 

Patterns in WhiteWINTER LACEAs heavy, wet snow rapidly falls, it clings to tree branches creating a design of dark tree limbs against the white snow and sky.

Newfields, New Hampshire
The ultra-local option is also good when your schedule is jammed - and whose isn't right now? I've been wanting to make a run over to the Tetons for two weeks but still haven't been able to squeeze it in. That's when it's time to look much closer to home.

As for the elements, if you're dressed properly it's not that big of a deal. Truly. I've been happily shooting in Yellowstone National Park when the thermometer said it was 26 below zero. I'm cold sensitive; if I can do it, so can you.

Still, if the cold and snow just aren't your cup of tea, find things you can shoot indoors. Just because you're a nature photographer doesn't mean you can't practice on other types of subject matter. There are any number of creative exercises you can do with items around the house. For example: make ten abstract photos of a common object.

The winter months are also a great time to brush up on your processing skills. Lightroom and Photoshop are always adding new features. Are you up to date?

Bottom line: don't forget about photography over the winter.

In Local News

Skiers, it's time! Grand Targhee begins winter operations tomorrow at 9am. Jackson Hole opens on the 24th. Snow King anticipates opening on December 8th.

Speaking of Jackson Hole, December 9th is "Ski in Jeans Day." They're going to attempt to break the world's record for the most people skiing and riding in jeans. $25 lift tickets, $25 rentals. 

In Grand Teton National Park, Antelope Flats Road is still open. Unless there's a lot of snow, that usually remains ungated until after the conclusion of the elk hunt.


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