In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.
For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.
When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)
But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!
While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years.
On the creative side, it made me take a closer look at winter and appreciate its fleeting nature (as I did with summer and fall), through snowfalls and sunshine, through deep freezes and through melting cycles. Of the days I went out on photo shoots, no two days were the same.
My renewed interest in photography made me appreciate the beauty of nature in its dormant state, a whole new lens through which I haven’t explored winter in many years.
In late fall, a dried out shrub or plant, in its various shades of earth tones, may not be a big deal against a background of dark brown soil and decomposing leaves. But if you place that same plant in the right lighting conditions and against the stark white background of a fresh snowfall, it can become a stunning subject.
Similarly, with the sun’s position in the sky and limited sunlight over the winter months, I was mesmerized by the drama of the unique shadows left behind by the leafless trees. I occasionally found myself pursuing shots of the shadows, not of the subject in nature itself.
I really enjoyed going back to the same parks and places where I did a few nature shoots last summer and fall, and seeing them again in a new light, and then comparing the two. How amazing was the difference a few months can make when the bright fall leaves have disappeared and the rapids of the river had frozen over.
Looking at winter through the camera lens forced me to hunt, find and capture the beauty of the season. It worked!
But the month of March was a bit of a different story. When the snow was melting, the river’s water levels were rising and parks became oversized mud puddles, I really struggled to find the beauty. I realize now that I should have just looked for different subjects during that time.
Either way, it didn’t matter much. With spring just around the corner, anticipation was building for the soon-to-arrive bright pops of colours and returning wildlife, to bring renewed excitement and joy to the hobby of nature photography.
Even though I might not have gone out with the camera as often as I could have this past winter, I was pleased to see that my cocooning instinct was short-circuited on a few occasions, trying to capture some of winter’s beauty. While I wouldn’t say I became a huge fan of winter in doing so, it certainly stretched me as an artist and made for some very enjoyable shoots on sunny crisp days.
I look forward to the rematch with Mother Nature next winter.
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