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Every Season has a Story – Part 1 – Spring

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A good photograph is knowing where to stand.

Ansel Adams

I live in that part of Canada that has a temperate climate, i.e., it has four seasons, which is most of Canada.  Furthermore, according to Environment Canada, they are the folks who do all our weather stuff, I live in a climate zone known as the Prairies, characterized by dry and humid summers and dry and cold winters.  We get some rain in the spring and summer with low amounts of precipitation in winter.  Most of our rain comes from thunderstorms that occur most often in July and August.  We also get hail from these thunderstorms, some of which can get very large.  I have seen hailstones up to 25 mm in diameter and I have been told that they can get even larger.

As I write this, it is now the First of February and the first day of Spring is just over 45 days away – not too soon to be thinking about things to

photograph when it rolls around.  Spring is the season of rebirth – the grass turns green, deciduous trees get their new leaves, flowers break out in bloom, birds return from their winter quarters and start to raise their young, bears come out of hibernation – the list goes on.  I would submit to you that it is not too soon to be planning your Spring photography sessions.  What things do you like to photograph at this time of year?  Better yet, have you given any thought to where you can go to photograph them?  It is not too soon to scout out potential locations in your neighbourhood – parks, river valleys, woodlands, local ponds, or venture out into the countryside or the wilderness, where possible, and find suitable spots for spring photography.

Trees, Flowers etc.

Flowering trees can present all kinds of image potential.

Flowering trees can present all kinds of image potential.

There are innumerable opportunities presented for photographing trees, flowers, even weeds at this time of year.  Trees start to bud out and present

Lilac Buds in early Spring.

Lilac Buds in early Spring.

the growth of new leaves for the coming seasons.  Flowers, both domestic and wild, begin to show new growth and will produce all kinds of flowers and new growth to be captured.  Even weeds, such as the dreaded dandelion present a number of opportunities to make interesting images.  For example, you can capture the yellow flowers in all their glory, or you can wait a few weeks as they turn to seed and capture the ethereal nature of the filmy last gasp of the flowers.

Dandelion "fluff" - one of many ways to photograph them.

Dandelion “fluff” – one of many ways to photograph them.

One other aspect that is often forgotten is the activities that occur on farms as new crops start to grow and flower.  New animals, calves, lambs and foals appear in the fields and can be the subject of interesting photography if you will take a bit of time and watch their activities.

Water

Water in all its forms is an endless source of subjects to photograph.  Spring is usually the time of snow melt.  Rivers and streams increase their flow as the snow melt runs off and adds to their volume.  Often the snow melt freezes at night, or in one of those transitional days, and produces icicles and other frozen objects that make for interesting subjects.  With the increase in volume in the rivers, the amount of water flowing over waterfalls can make for some interesting imagery that can only be captured at this time of year.  On larger rivers, the spring breakup can produce

Lundbreck Falls, Alberta, in all its Spring glory.

Lundbreck Falls, Alberta, in all its Spring glory.

an interesting array of possible of shots for the photographer who is willing to take the time to wait and watch.

If you live in a coastal area, spring tides can often produce breaking waves that produce spectacular imagery.  The list goes on and is only limited by your imagination and the ability to think outside the artistic and creative box.

Birds and other Wildlife

Spring is the season of rebirth.  Birds and other wildlife pair up and proceed to do what nature asks them to do to raise a new crop of youngsters.  With some wildlife, the pairing has taken place last fall and the newborns were produced in the late winter, but as Spring approaches, they are still dependent on their mother to feed and protect them.   They are still very wary of humans and are hard to approach, but the reward is worth the time it may take to get within a safe distance for photography.  I happen to be fortunate in that I live within a short drive of the Rockies where I can often find herds of elk and Big Horn Sheep that are accustomed to people being around them and it is very easy to get close, but not too close, to the animals to capture interesting photographs of their activities.  Higher elevations are home to smaller mammals such as the Pika and the Marmot.  Prairie dwellers can often find ground squirrels or gophers as they are often referred to,

Ground squirrels start to pop up in early Spring, often before all the snow is gone.

Ground squirrels start to pop up in early Spring, often before all the snow is gone.

together with coyotes, burrowing owls and other indigenous critters.  Those that live in more wooded areas, can often find raccoons, squirrels and owls doing their thing at this time of year.  Alternatively, you can always visit your local zoo and with some careful techniques, make your images appear as if they were taken in the wild.

Birds are one of the most variable subjects for those who are outdoor photographers.  They come in all shapes and sizes, from the very small hummingbirds to the large and graceful Eagles, Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes, and, of course, most of North America is familiar with the Canada Goose.  A rather ubiquitous bird that occurs in a large variety of habitats, both urban and wild.  Now is the time to check out specific spots where birds are known to occur.  One example, that I often forget about, are the migrants.  A lot of birds migrate through my part of the world on their way to northern habitats to raise their young.  For example, in my area, the Trumpeter

Trumpeter Swan resting during its annual migration to the North.

Trumpeter Swan resting during its annual migration to the North.

and Tundra Swans pass through every April on their way north.  I have located a number of sloughs in the countryside where they tend to pause on their long journey and I take advantage of this for some early Spring photography.

With a little research, you can find out about the migrants that pass through your area.

The other aspect of birds in spring are the mating and nesting activities that are common in most parts of the northern hemisphere at this time of year.  Birds that do not mate for life arrive back in the northern climes every spring looking for a mate.  There are all types of display and mate attracting activities that go on that can be captured by the knowledgeable photographer at this time of year.  Remember, that you will often have to get out into the countryside to photograph some of this activity as not all birds are city dwellers.

Canada Goose male protecting his mate from another male.

Canada Goose male protecting his mate from another male.

For those who live along one of the countries coastlines, or near a large body of water such as one of the Great Lakes, there are a variety of opportunity to capture images of shore birds and other species that most of us inland folks probably will not see unless we are fortunate enough to make a visit to one of these areas.

Landscapes

Yes, even landscapes take on a new appearance in the Spring.  As noted, the grass turns green, trees break out new leaves, waterfalls are more spectacular and the cover of snow that hid a lot of the landscape from view is gone (not that a snow-covered landscape is not to be photographed – it is just different).  If you live along, or near the ocean, then you may have an opportunity to capture seascapes with breaking waves.  Spring tides are often much more intense than those at other times of the year.

If you are not into wildlife,  birds or ‘scapes, then remember that you can take move your portrait photography outside as the weather gets warmer.  Natural environments lend themselves to all types of people photography – portraits, weddings, etc.  All it involves is a little planning on your part and you will most likely be impressed with the utility of natural light and the results that it provides for your imagery.

Regardless of where your photographic interests lie, there are innumerable opportunities available as Spring returns to the land.  Start planning now and maybe you will have that opportunity to capture an image that you never thought possible.  You never know where your photographic journey will take you.

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