In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter

Winter light changes everything.

As the sun makes its way across the sky during December, we never really get that high-noon look of stark light and flat landscapes.  Winter has the advantage of light being at angles to everything, all day long.

I took a photography class with Dan Ballard a couple years ago. He’s an amazing photographer, and his workshop elevated my photography skills exponentially.

One thing I learned from Dan was the importance of light and perspective.  Our workshop took place in Jackson, Wyoming in June.  The light in June is the exact opposite of the light in December.  Long days, a high, unforgiving sun that washes out everything.

One of the other students in our class put his camera away after breakfast and didn’t get it out again until after dinner.  He wouldn’t shoot at all during the day, as he didn’t like the light at all.  Photography is, like painting, all about light.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of no shooting in the middle of the day, as I think there are plenty of things to shoot even at mid day.  Granted, mid day comes earlier in December than in June, but the idea is the same.

Shadows become prominent features this time of year.  After a healthy snowfall last night, the land turned predominantly white, save for the shadows.  Watching them move over the course of the day is a real treat, moving left to right as I look out the front of my house.

The hedges which separate our home from the one next to us are the last to lose their leaves in the fall.  By December, they are just sticks coming out of the ground.  Several years ago, they were the haven for a flock of chickadees that would feed at our neighbors across the street, as they had an industrial sized bird feeder.  They would get their fill, then high-tail it across the street to our bushes and hide out.  It was quite the sight watching a hundred small birds fly as if by command from their yard to ours.

Today the light turned the sticks to shadow-casters.  Dark is the absence of light, and the light disappeared behind the sticks, giving depth and texture to the otherwise monochrome surface of the snow.

Winter light really does change things.


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