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I guess I like solitude, and nothing quite says it like a cold beach covered in snow. It's empty here this time of year, not like a warm summer day when you can barely find room to get to the water. I think it's the idea of taking a photo of something that's normally associated with warmth and relaxation and then showing it in a completely different way. It's so much more interesting in the winter, and it changes so quickly. One day it might look nearly identical to how it does in the summer, just without all of the people, and the next it could be covered in snow and ice. I particularly like finding the transitional phases of it, like a few days after a snowstorm when the sand starts to come through from beneath the snow. The first image here is an example of that from Hecksher State Park a little over a month ago. I had this spot in mind and waited until it just started warming up so that the snow cover would be receding.
This next image is from the same park a few weeks later. The park looks over the Great South Bay which freezes over if it's been well below freezing for a few days. I didn't put too much planning into when I came here this time, I just wanted to get some shots over the frozen landscape. I had noticed on the forecast that some fog was going to be rolling in and I think that added an interesting element because the background blurs out to the point that you can't really see the land on the other side of the bay. It's kind of like faking an arctic scene or something. Those streams that form on top of the ice make for some convenient leading lines too, especially when I noticed this one catching the pink light from the sunset. In a few days all of this ice will be gone, and it will look like it does in the summer for a while.
That's why I liked the idea of including this one. It's from Robert Moses which is an ocean beach so it never freezes over like the bay can. It's an interesting contrast though because it's just a few miles away and taken in the same month (though a year earlier) and looks just like a typical beach. Nothing really wintery about it, but the emptiness and cool blues can kind of give you a sense of the cold. The photo below is of the same beach after another snowfall this January.
A completely different feeling from nearly the same exact location at the same time of year. The way the winds mix the snow and sand give a really cool effect, and one that's only there for a few days if that. All of these beaches are awesome environments to photograph in the winter. You can't go two days in a row and expect the same landscape like you can in the summer, and on top of that you usually have most of it to yourself. So if you're tired of the cold, go to the beach. And if you're not able to overlook the fact that this advice won't make you warmer then get a flight to the desert - which just happens to be what I'm doing in March.
I'm starting to sell some prints on my website here if you're interested. I may add more soon but if you are looking for a specific image of mine let me know.
I've started to realize over the past year or so that one of my favorite times to capture images is in or right after "bad" weather. I don't take many photos of actual storms, I'm usually into the grand or intimate landscapes often around sunrise or sunset. What I've realized is that overcast or foggy weather is one of the greatest ways to simplify an image, and I like simple images. In these weather conditions the sky and therefore the rest of the image is more uniformly lit, and the details are softer even without a shallow depth of field or a long exposure. It's a natural way to bring in focus to the subject and has the added benefit of an emotion that is difficult to replicate with a clear sky.
The first image here is probably the first one that helped me to realize how great this kind of weather is in creating simple artistic images. It was taken on the south shore of Long Island right after a thunderstorm while the sun was setting. I purposely went out after the storm because I saw that it was breaking and thought it would look kind of interesting with the sun setting below a thick layer of clouds. I think I was right, but I honestly never really thought about this kind of image showing up there until I arrived. It's still one of my favorite images because of how simple it is both in composition and color while still having an emotional pull to it.
This is another photo that I took in the same kind of conditions several months later. Whenever there is a storm now I check to see if it's going to break before sunset to try to get similar results. I want it to break within about an hour or two of sunset so that just enough color and light are able to come through between the clouds and the horizon. Here I used a very shallow depth of field to smooth out the background and bring in focus to the beam that leads you into the center of the sunset. There is more detail in the foreground here, but I think it gives a similar simplistic and emotional feeling. The sky is simple, burning pink into magenta above the thin line of the yellow sunset. If it was just a few clouds or a clear sky it would have a very different feel. The ominous dark emotion of the sky with the peaceful light from the sun below it would not have been easily replicated with a clear or slightly cloudy sky. If this image was taken without overcast skies it may have had a similar color palette and overall look, but it probably wouldn't be as emotional and would feel more complex.
This photo is very different from the first two. It's not a sunset picture, it's in black and white, and was taken in foggy weather rather than right after a storm. I think it has a similar effect of minimalism though. The fog takes away the background so you just have a few ripples of water going into nothing. The moody emotion of this is helped out by the lack of color, but the fog is what really brings the focus in to the details of the subject.
These conditions help a lot in trying to convey a certain emotion in an image. It's often the subtle things that you might not even realize are there that can make an image, so I was pretty happy when this idea of how to use weather like this to my advantage really clicked.
This is from my trip to Utah last March. We drove into the northern part of Zion National Park and took a short walk down the Hop Valley Trail. The light was coming through the clouds and started hitting Black Ridge in the background when we weren’t far down the trail. It seemed like a good viewpoint to see Red Butte in front of Black Ridge with the flatter lands below.Read More