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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.