Winter is simple



Winter can be bone chilling.  Winter can be miserable.  Winter can be icy,  shivery,  bitter and intense.  Winter can be long.  But for photographers winter can be beautiful, unique, mesmerizing, inspiring and most importantly, winter can be simple.


Simplicity – Big Cottonwood Canyon, Ut

I was snowshoeing in big cottonwood canyon looking for a photo of the grand landscape that canyon can offer.  Instead, I had terrible photo conditions. It was snowing hard with bland light through thick, dull clouds.  I was about to give up, when just a trickle of light shown through on this simple little tree. If I hadn’t been looking I would have missed it. Just like in life we often fight the storm, looking for grandeur and miss the simple greatness that is before us.

Compare this photo to the one below. Although there is some interesting color and detail in the bark of the closest tree, the rest of the trees and branches are distracting and overbearing. There is a saying that goes something like this “Don’t miss the forest for the trees”.  My saying for photography is “Don’t miss the tree for the forest”. Keep things as simple as possible. The above photo won first place in a photo contest. The below photo would not do well at all.

In art, painting and drawing are additive. The artist starts with a blank canvas or paper and then continues to add detail until the work is complete. Photography is subtractive.  When photographers go out to take a photo they have everything their eye and camera can see. They must subtract out all the things they don’t want in their photo, but keep in the things they do want. Typically speaking having the least amount of distractions around your subject creates the most desirable photo. There are many ways to lessen the distractions, which I will discuss in future blogs, but one of the most important is to look for compositions that allow you to shoot with less in the photo. Winter is the perfect time to shoot simple for of many reasons.  The snow covers a lot of the distractions on the ground. Typically there is not much color in the winter, not only because of the coverage of snow, but also the lack of colorful leaves, flowers and plants. Winter is simple.


Interesting bark, but distracting trees and branches

One other great thing about winter is that it is a great time to shoot unique photos. There are many amazing things to photograph in this world, but many of them have been photographed millions of times. Eiffel tower, Delicate arch,  St. Basils cathedral and Yosemite falls just to name a few.  It you have the opportunity you must photograph these amazing places, but I also believe it is important to shoot photos that nobody has seen before. Winter is perfect for this because it is always changing, never quite the same. Always freezing, thawing and refreezing. I am pretty sure that no one has a photo just like the one I shot below. The shot probably would have looked different even if I had come back the next day and tried to reshoot it.


I challenge you to get out of your warm house and go out and find the beauty and wonder that winter has to offer photographers. To look for ways to make your photos simple and unique. It is truly a winter wonderland out there, so don’t miss it!


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