Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Landscape Photography
What is your favorite season and why? And where would you go to capture that season in a fine art photograph?
Fine Art Landscape Photography without the four seasons would be a whole lot more boring. I can say that with some authority as having lived in South Florida my entire life where there is not a visible difference between the seasons.
For the vast majority of the rest of the United States, Canada, and other places around the world there is a visible difference between the seasons. It is a beautiful thing to experience and I’m glad my landscape photography work allows me the opportunity, or the excuse, to experience it.
I’ll discuss here both some of my favorite locations for each season and some of the differences in the photography and preparation.
Spring Landscape Photography
Just about anytime someone mentions Spring in regards to photography, the first thought is generally photos of Spring Flowers. The time of year can vary greatly based on the location. The flowers are usually blooming in late March at the South Carolina Plantations and in some of the desert areas of Arizona.
April is the time to be at the Columbia Hills State Park in the Columbia River Gorge for photos of Tulips in Skagit Valley in northwestern Washington State. April is also a great time to be in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mid-May has the Dogwoods in bloom in Yosemite and late May or early June is the time to find the Rhododendrons among the Redwood trees in northern California. Mid-June is the time to find the Rhodies in North Carolina and Tennessee.
You get the picture. You can’t be everywhere at once so you have to choose your battles. The above are just a few of the locations and it can take quite a few years to try to photograph Spring flowers at all the possible locations around the United States.
The weather is cool to warm and fun to be out in. Be sure to have that super wide-angle lens on your camera. You’re going to want to get low and close to those flowers. Focus stacking is going to be a common method for capturing many of the scenes.
Summer Landscape Photography
It’s nice and warm in the Summer and you can easily be out there on the beach in your shorts capturing one of those great summer sunrises or sunsets. The summer storms offer an opportunity to capture some dramatic lighting images at places like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and other Southwest desert areas. In Florida, capturing images of the storms offshore in the morning being lit up by the rising sun has become an enjoyable thing for me to do.
The wildflowers are in the mountains of Colorado and at Mount Rainier National Park during July and August. If you’re lucky, you can find them at Mount St. Helens in late June. There are many other places to go. You just have to do a little research based on your ability to travel and the time you can go.
The days can be long, especially if you’re in northern areas like Glacier National Park, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, or Iceland. With sunrise before 6 am and sunset at 9 pm or later, there’s plenty of time in the middle of the day for image review, scouting, and a very important nap.
Fall Landscape Photography
If I had to choose, and I don’t, I would probably pick Fall as my favorite season to photograph. The weather is mild, the light jacket kind of thing. Sunrise and sunset are about 12 hours apart, which leaves plenty of time for both scouting and sleep.
Like Spring, Fall can range for a few months, taking place from mid-August to mid-November. The tundra is bright red and orange in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska in mid-August. Central and southern Alaska have Fall colors in early September.
In late September, serious choices have to be made. It is the time to capture photos in the North Cascades at Picture Lake, Grand Teton National Park, the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado, or Rocky Mountain National Park. You just have to pick one and go with it. I usually rotate around from year to year. I will usually stay into early October hoping for some early snowfall. Getting snow on the mountains with Fall color in the foreground is pretty special.
Early October is the time to be in West Virginia for the Glade Creek Grist Mill or up at Blackwater State Park to catch the bright red tundra at Dolly Sods. You can come south from there for photos in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the last two weeks of October. The higher elevations have color early and the lower elevations late in the month.
Mid to late October is also the time for photos in Acadia National Park in Maine, so once again, choices have to be made. Having recently been to Acadia in the Fall, I was impressed by all the different opportunities and it was not very crowded, a real plus compared to the Smokies. From Boulder Beach to Jordan Pond to Cadillac Mountain there is plenty to keep a landscape photographer busy for a week or more. Nearby lighthouses are just a bonus.
Of course, there are always many locations in New England. The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer countless locations to photograph in the Fall.
Late October and early November can be good for Fall color at Yosemite National Park. For most of November, it’s the time to be at one of the southern Cypress swamps to capture photos of Cypress Trees in their glorious red and orange colors. My favorite place is Caddo Lake, Texas because it is so large and has so many options. George L. Smith State Park in Georgia is also good, but it is smaller. It is, however, a great place to get out in a kayak among the trees.
As you can see there is no shortage of places to photograph Fall color. There are more, but these were the ones that immediately came to mind.
Winter Landscape Photography
Number 1, it can be really cold. It is important to know in advance just how cold it’s going to be so you have the right clothes and equipment. For me, it’s always been about my fingers too cold. Big Baffin Snow Monster boots take care of the feet and toes just fine, but operating the camera controls means I have to take off the big mittens and have just the glove liners on.
Temperatures above 10 degrees Fahrenheit are not much of an issue. Of course, if there are high winds, it changes everything. When that happens, I’m looking for my face guards, heaviest headwear, and everything else I can find. The wind also creates more problems for my right hand with just a glove liner to operate the camera.
When the temperatures get below zero, as in minus 20, it becomes more of survival mode. Sometimes you just have to decide that it’s just too cold and not worth it. That can be a tough call when you’re looking at a beautiful scene in great light. Again, it’s all about how much wind there is.
There are places that you wouldn’t immediately think of for winter photography. Bryce Canyon with it’s red rock formations makes for a wonderful contrast against the white snow. If you’re lucky, you can capture a fresh snowstorm in Red Rock Canyon west of Las Vegas.
My absolute favorite place to photograph Winter is the Canadian Rockies. From Kananaskis Country south of Canmore to the mountains around Banff and Lake Louise and along the Icefields Parkway up to Jasper, there is simply so much there to photograph. You need to plan to be there for plenty of time as there are going to be crummy overcast and snowy days where you can’t do much. The weather can change quickly from bad to good or vice versa, so keep that in mind.
Landscape Photography is a great way to spend your time outdoors. It is a year-round activity if you want it to be. I believe my portfolio of images pretty clearly shows this. I hope this article has been helpful.