Snow Day: Digging Out of a Rut

After last year and its extremely lackluster “storms,” I’ve been delighted the past day as the snow has continued to fall. However, as much as I like snow, I’m always disappointed when I run out and attempt to photograph it. I tend to focus too much on the big picture, and get caught up in my search for that one magical and awe-inspiring shot that I know is waiting for me, somewhere, if only I can find it before it’s too late. Unfortunately, this tendency makes me overlook so many other things, and I’ve been aware for a while now that this is a significant problem.  After donning my (very hardcore) winter apparel, I bravely ventured outside in the hopes of capturing the lovely, snowy, landscape and correcting my bad habit of ignoring the details.

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After crawling through the massive snowbank protecting my driveway, my first instinct was to get a shot of the heavy branches bowing over my narrow, unplowed road. However, my goal was to work against my gut instincts.  In conditions like today’s, with dull, flat light, my more over-the-top  and bigger-is-better inclinations result in, frankly, terrible images. The above image was my solution to the problem: it still captures the overwhelming number of snow laden branches, just in a more abstract way, where the flat light is beneficial. I rather enjoy photographic abstraction, but I don’t practice it as often as I should in my usual rush after my dream image.

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Since wide, typical landscape shots were out of the question, I honed in on things that I usually ignore.  Luckily, the conditions forced me to pay attention to the interesting delicacy of these persistent leaves. The colors and textures here caught my eye, and tell the story of the heavy snowfall much more intimately than a wide shot of the road, or forest, would have.

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My avoidance of my usual tactics also gave me ample opportunity to pay attention to line and form. Although they’re very basic compositional tools,  they can even become the subject of an image.  This is another approach that I generally enjoy, but don’t focus on nearly enough in my work. In this case, despite the shape of the branch essentially being the image’s subject, the shot still conveys something meaningful and obvious about the intensity of last night’s storm.

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I’ll admit it; I suffered a relapse with this shot!  However, I still tried to integrate the weighty branches into the shot, to better illustrate my overall theme.  The way they frame the house make it clear that the oppressive snow is still the main focus.  This type of framing is also something that I can easily overlook as I chase my normal “big picture” shots, where I prefer the most dramatic, unobstructed view I can find.

DSC_0290This shot of snow on a fallen tree is my favorite of the day. Even though it only contrains a very small portion of a larger, and equally interesting, scene, it still encapsulates the entirety of what I wanted to capture.  Without further context, the branches seem a bit lost and menacing, and the cool tones create a slightly otherworldly feel.  Although I could have touched upon these themes in other shots, this closer, more intimate shot is much more engaging.

I’ll have to try this experiment again. I’ve done something similar before, when I broke my complete reliance on my 11-18mm lens (don’t ask). Focusing on different styles and approaches seems like an effective and interesting way to tell a story, instead of trying to capture a single image that sums it all up; it’s an approach I want to play around with, and blog posts seem like a fantastic medium for a more narrative approach to photography.

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