It's still a remarkable fact to me that we here at TOP have a number of readers in the Southern Hemisphere, where summer is beginning to draw to a close and fall is on the way.
Here in the old Northwest, however, spring is just around the corner. Spring, to me, marks the start of the photography season. Lengthening days, more accommodating temperatures, changing greenery. Last night it got down to the teens here—that's minus 7 or 8 Celsius—but the strengthening sun did some work on the sidewalks yesterday even so, melting some more ice, and I no longer need to turn the porch light on when I turn the dog out at 6:15 a.m. Most importantly, the more varied, frequently dramatic daylight of the springtime months make for more interesting visual opportunities. The air and the skies are more changeable for a while.
The month of March has gotten steadily more important to me as I go through more and more annual cycles. I've come to like the folksy old "in like a lion, out like a lamb" mantra—I'm always rooting for the lamb. We supposedly have a big storm on the way that might hit us on Saturday, so the lion has still got its hold on us. But the lamb is coming. I did see a kid walking from school in shorts and a T-shirt the other day. But the ground was covered with snow and it was in the 30s (about 0°C) so he was just being a tough guy.
Robins, before- and after-work sunlight, and kids with no coats on—the signs of spring in Wisconsin.
So–you ready? Got your gear in good shape, your cards cleared, bag packed (if you use one)? Straps on the cameras? Workflow in good trim? Lenses chosen for this year? A project or two, or at least some spots picked out you intend to hit? Some time cleared in the schedule for shooting?
My plans are to shoot 50 sheets of film this year with the view camera. But I don't have any ambitions for that work. That's just an exercise, to get conversant with the equipment and the materials, to start getting a feel for that way of working. I won't know whether I want to work with that camera seriously until another year has gone by. Meanwhile, I still haven't decided what I'm going to shoot with this spring. I have a few promising pictures from the little Panasonic that seem to be pointing in one promising direction, and I have the K-5 to get to know. And I now have several medium format film cameras, and have been thinking about doing some serious work with one of those. I need to get all that sorted out for this year. It's time.
Midsummer, for me, is nearly as bad as midwinter for shooting. Not quite as dull, and certainly not as dark. But not as good as spring or fall. Photographers talk about the "golden hours"—the transition times between day and night. But the transition between seasons is equally important as an opportunity for photography.
If you're not prepared for this year yet, there's still time.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Bryan Hansel: "I'm a little further north of you on the north shore of Lake Superior, and, although I'm looking forward to warmth, I'm sad that winter is leaving. This winter offered lots of interesting ice formations, open water and some of the best winter sunsets out of the last few years. It's been a great winter for Lake Superior landscape photography."
Mike replies: It's an interesting feature of photography that virtually anything any given person can think of that's preventing him or her from photographing—night, winter, underwater, war—there are other photographers who actively seek out those conditions for their work. Even cloudiness—that would obviously stymie an astrophotographer, but the Bechers, who we were talking about a couple of posts ago, did all their work on overcast days against dull, featureless gray skies. I even knew a photographer who did a project in pitch darkness (bodies in a darkened room with infrared film. Her camera had a visually opaque red filter on it, and she aimed her zone-focused camera by ear. It was good stuff, too).
Featured Comment by Ken White: "I'm a little South of you in San Antonio, Texas. We are already well into spring weather with some 80 degree days in the last week. My plan for this year is to shoot with the Fuji X100 as my primary camera and blog about the results. Not exactly a one camera, one lens, one year commitment, but as close as I can muster. Can't wait to get the little guy. Happy Spring or Fall as the case may be."
Mike responds: Sounds like a plan!