Landscape Photography – Shooting the Same Location Through the Seasons

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Put up your hand if you like shooting landscape photography, and are always looking for new places – but only photograph them once, maybe twice, and then think you are done with that area.

I am guilty of the same thing. I go looking for places to photograph, take photos of them, and think I will go back but never do. Perhaps this is something we need to rethink.

Consider how the seasons affect landscapes and what changes happen throughout the year. In Australia the traditional owners of the land, or the indigenous people, have different seasons to the European ones, there are six of them. They are very descriptive of what happens, though the usual seasons of autumn, winter, spring, and summer can still provide lots of differences to give the same place different aspects.

Autumn

Put up your hand if you like shooting landscapes, are always looking for new places, but only photograph them once, maybe twice, and then think you are done with that area.  I am guilty of the same thing. I go looking for places to photograph, take photos of them, and think I will go back but never do. Perhaps this is something we need to rethink.  Consider how the seasons affect landscapes and what changes happen throughout the year. In Australia the traditional owners of the land, or the indigenous people, have different seasons to the European ones and there are six of them. They are very descriptive of what happens. Though the usual seasons of autumn, winter, spring and summer can still provide lots of differences to give the same place different aspects.  Autumn  The most obvious thing about autumn is the changing of the leaves. In some parts of the world, this happens a lot more and nearly all trees lose their leaves. In Australia it doesn’t happen so much and many of the native trees are evergreen and retain their leaves all year round. Having said that, there are also many introduced species that do, and in towns and some areas in the country you can find trees that have those beautiful, golden colors associated with autumn.  The changing of the leaves isn’t the only thing to look for. On billabongs, swamps and dams, you will often find low level mist creating wonderful moods. If you go out early in the morning, wait for the sun to rise and you can get some great effects from the sun rays as they hit the water.  There, sunrises are more interesting and sometimes there is a golden light that is associated with that time of morning that you can only see at that time of year. The golden hour that is normally associated with sunsets is there to give your landscape that rich color. It isn’t too cold in the mornings, but the weather is changing as winter approaches.  Before you go to bed check what the forecast will be the following day. What you are looking for is the weather to get worse, such as rain being forecast. In the morning before the sunrise take a look outside at the sky. If the sky is clear and there are no clouds, you won’t get that beautiful color that you get when the sun reflects off the clouds. If the sky is very grey, go back to bed, the change has already happened.  Winter  In winter the sun doesn’t go so high, so you can get long shadows all day. The shadows are softer and have a moist feel to them, especially in the morning when there is dew all over the ground. You can take photos at any time of the day and it is the best time of the year to photograph.  Frosts and fogs can give the landscape a completely different look, and heading out on a foggy morning can be well worth it. It is cold, but the images will make you glad you went. If you know it is going to be foggy or frosty in the morning you need to just head out, as you may not get many mornings with either of these. If you stay out long enough you might also be rewarded with an amazing sunny afternoon.  Stormy skies and rain can give another dimension to your images. Large storm clouds or grey skies can give a landscape a completely different look to when there are blue skies. Look for cloudy skies and breaks in the sun to give the scene in front of you a great effect.  Winter often means bare trees. Once the leaves have been stripped from them there are branches that can give your images interesting shapes and shadows. If you like photos with lots of mood, it is a perfect time to get it, especially if you get a great fog to go with them.  There is an array of colors that you don’t see at other times of the year. The dew in the early mornings makes everything wet which can bring out the colors and give you wonderful naturally saturated images.  Some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen were taken when there is a blanket of snow. Unfortunately, in most places here, it never snows. If you live somewhere where it does, you should use it, brave the cold and just get out there and make the most of it.  Spring  The most obvious aspect of spring is flowers. It might be flowers in the garden, or wildflowers growing in their natural environment. Having them blooming in the landscape leaves no doubt that it is spring.  It is beginning to warm up as summer approaches, and, while the weather is getting better, there is also going to be lots of rain and more stormy skies as spring is often the wettest time of the year. You could try taking photos of your landscapes in the rain, it will give them a different look.  Spring is also the time that many baby animals are born, so you can see new life everywhere you look.  Waterfalls, creeks and rivers run faster and have more water in them as the snow melts. Go to your favorite waterfalls and see how the extra water adds more volume. You will get something quite different than you would if you photographing them at the end or the height of summer.  Summer  This can be the harshest season in Australia. It is dry and hot. Most of the grasses in the landscape die off, leaving brown grass everywhere. There is an absence of color and the landscape is very different to what you find in winter. The hot sun will also leach out all the color in what you see. A beautiful landscape that you get in other times of the year will look desaturated.  The light is harsh and hard. The sun is higher in the sky and the shadows are shorter. Going out to get nice pictures in the middle of the day is too hard, and often too hot. Though it shouldn’t stop you from trying. See what you can get and see if you can show that heat in the images. If you get those extreme days where the temperature is above 100°F then it won’t matter when you go, it will be horrible.  On a positive note, if you know the next day is going to be a scorcher, check for clouds and head out somewhere great for a landscape as you can be fairly certain that you will get the most magnificent sunset. You need clouds to get a great one and the more the better, but you don’t want overcast or you won’t see the setting sun. Don’t forget to hang around for an hour afterwards to get the best of it. Summer is the best time for those amazing sunsets, and over water means you get double.  In Australia it is very hot at that time of the year, but usually after a few days of intense heat it gets broken by a big thunder storm. You can head out, somewhere where you will be protected, and take some photos of the lightning and thunder clouds as they approach.  Using the Seasons for Your Photography  Think of your favorite places that are nearby, places you can get to easily. What are they like at different times of the year? How can you show those differences? It could give your photography a new focus, give it a try. I’ve been doing it for the last couple of years and it is amazing how you can get very different images from the same location.  If you have an area that you love photographing but feel as though you have exhausted it, consider documenting the change throughout the seasons with your camera.

Autumn brings low mist over the water in Banyule Flats.

The most obvious thing about autumn is the changing of the leaves. In some parts of the world, this happens a lot more and nearly all trees lose their leaves. In Australia it doesn’t happen as much, and many of the native trees are evergreen which retain their leaves year round. Having said that, there are also many introduced species that do have color changing leaves, and in some towns and areas in the country you can find trees that have those beautiful, golden colors often associated with autumn.

The changing of the leaves isn’t the only thing to look for. On billabongs, swamps and dams, you will often find low level mist creating wonderful moods. If you go out early in the morning, and wait for the sun to rise, you can get some great effects from the sun rays as they hit the water.

In those types of locations, sunrises are more interesting and sometimes there is a golden light associated with that time of morning, that you can only see at that time of year. The golden hour that is normally associated with sunsets is there to give your landscape that rich color. It isn’t too cold in the mornings, but the weather is changing as winter approaches.

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0009

Autumn’s early morning golden glow through some trees.

Before you go to bed at night, check what the forecast will be the following day. What you are looking for is the weather to get worse, such as rain in the forecast. In the morning before the sunrise take a look outside at the sky. If the sky is clear and there are no clouds, you won’t get that beautiful color that only happens when the sun reflects off clouds. If the sky is very grey, go back to bed, the change has already happened.

Winter

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0012

Thick fog in the countryside, in the middle of winter.

In winter the sun doesn’t get as high in the sky, so you can get long shadows all day. The shadows are softer and have a moist feel to them, especially in the morning when there is dew all over the ground. You can take photos at any time of the day, it is the best time of the year to photograph.

Frosts and fogs can give the landscape a completely different look, and heading out on a foggy morning can be well worth it. It is cold, but the images will make you glad you went. If you know it is going to be foggy or frosty in the morning you need to just head out, as you may not get many mornings with either of those conditions. If you stay out long enough you might also be rewarded with an amazing sunny afternoon.

Stormy skies and rain can give another dimension to your images. Large storm clouds or grey skies can give a landscape a completely different look compared to those with blue skies. Look for cloudy skies, and breaks in the sun, to give the scene in front of you a great effect.

Winter often means bare trees. Once the leaves have been stripped from them, there are branches that can give your images interesting shapes and shadows. If you like photos with lots of mood, it is a perfect time to get that, especially if you get a great fog to go with the bare trees.

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0010

A typical Australian winter with some bare trees, long shadows and saturated colors.

There is an array of colors that you don’t see at other times of the year. The dew in the early mornings makes everything wet which can bring out the colors and give you wonderful naturally saturated images.

Some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen were taken when there is a blanket of snow. Unfortunately, in most places here, it never snows. If you live somewhere where that it does, use it. Brave the cold and just get out there and make the most of it.

Spring

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0014

Wildflowers add some color during spring.

The most obvious aspect of spring is flowers. It might be flowers in the garden, or wildflowers growing in their natural environment. Having them blooming in the landscape leaves no doubt that it is spring.

It is beginning to warm up as summer approaches, and, while the weather is getting better, there is also going to be lots of rain and more stormy skies, as spring is often the wettest time of the year. You could try taking photos of your landscapes in the rain, it will give them a different look.

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0015

A spring rain on Banyule Flats.

Spring is also the time that many baby animals are born, so you can see new life everywhere you look.

Waterfalls, creeks, and rivers run faster, and have more water in them as the snow melts. Go to your favorite waterfall and see how the extra water adds more volume. You will get images that are quite different than you would if you photograph there at the end, or the height, of summer.

Summer

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0008

Summer often dries out the swamp in Banyule Flats

This can be the harshest season in Australia. It is dry and hot. Most of the grasses in the landscape die off, leaving brown grass everywhere. There is an absence of color and the landscape is very different to what you find in the winter. The hot sun will also leach out all the color in what you see. A beautiful landscape that you get at other times of the year, will look desaturated.

The light is harsh and hard. The sun is higher in the sky and the shadows are shorter. Going out to get nice pictures in the middle of the day is too hard, and often too hot – though it shouldn’t stop you from trying. See what you can get and if you can show that heat in the images. If you have extreme days where the temperature is above 100°F (37.8°C) then it won’t matter when you go, it will be horrible.

cole-landscape-photography-seasons-0013

On a very hot summer day in the early evening, the sun is still very strong, and the shadows still harsh.

On a positive note, if you know the next day is going to be a scorcher, check for clouds and head out to a great landscape photography location, as you can be fairly certain that you will get the most magnificent sunset. You need clouds to get a great one and the more the better, but you don’t want overcast or you won’t see the setting sun. Don’t forget to hang around for an hour afterwards to get the best of it. Summer is the best time for amazing sunsets, and over water means you get double.

In Australia it is very hot at that time of the year, but usually after a few days of intense heat it gets broken by a big thunder storm. You can head out, somewhere where you will be protected, and take some photos of the lightning and thunder clouds as they approach.

Using the seasons for your photography

Think of your favorite places that are nearby, places you can get to easily. What are they like at different times of the year? How can you show those differences? It might your photography a new focus, give it a try. I’ve been doing it for the last couple of years and it’s amazing how you can get very different images from the same location.

If you have an area that you love photographing but feel as though you have exhausted it, consider documenting the change throughout the seasons with your camera.


Here on dPS this is landscape week – here is list of what we’ve covered so far. Watch for a new article (or two) on landscape photography daily for the next few days.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Leanne Cole is a fine art photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves Melbourne and photographing it, along with other parts of the state. She likes doing architectural and environmental photography. You can find her on her website or on Instagram.

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  • jay

    The wild flower brings the dark side some color 🙂

  • Yes, I think so too, a devastating fire went through the area earlier in the year, so to see the flowers meant that life was coming back there.

  • Tim Lowe

    So true. Getting to really know a landscape by returning to it often gives me a deeper understanding of what is going on in the scene. And the different quality light of different times of year (and different times of day!) changes to place so much. It always comes down to the light. Doesn’t it?

  • John Voss

    Good article, Leanne. As frequently as certain iconic locations are photographed, the value of revisiting them is demonstrated by how differently such places are interpreted by creative photographers. Same goes for one’s own favorite sites. As you point out, seasons, weather, time of day, and point of view can make an often visited location look as fresh as if seeing it for the first time.

    And there’s this too. Someone said the biggest enemies of fine landscape photography are breakfast and dinner. Not hard to see why!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    A great article! It is well worth exploring a particular locality in all its moods of weather and season. Another factor for those living near a coast is the tide, especially at a river mouth. I have been taking photos at the mouth of the Waikanae River, Kapiti Coast, NZ for a number of years. There is always some new image awaiting me. And sometimes it is worth recording those dull, overcast days, just to balance the bright sunny days.

  • I agree Tim, it can be amazing. Yes, it does. I’ve been photographing one place near me and the light I haven’t got is the hot intense summer day, guess I will find out this summer what the place looks like in that light. Thanks Tim.

  • Thank you John. I couldn’t agree more, so very true, you just never know what you will find.
    Oh yes, they are aren’t they, I get that. Breakfast is always after the shoot and the dinner before or after depending on the time of year.

  • If you live near the coast absolutely something you should think about, and how that changes through the year, thanks for that Bob.

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