When a photographer is planning a trip, season plays a big part in the decision-making process. There are unique photographic opportunities specifically related to weather and the seasons: fall colors, winter whites, spring flowers, summer heat. The seasons come at different times to different locations. Fall colors begin in late August and early September for Alaska and the far north of Canada. Following the color south through the Rockies and on to the plains, fall arrives in Oklahoma by October. Spring begins throughout most of the continental United States in March and April, but in the high mountain alpine meadows, spring may be as late as July. Planning your travels means researching prime times specific to a location.
The coming and going of the seasons isn’t consistent from year to year. This can present some scheduling challenges. Dependent upon weather conditions for the past few months or even the past year or more, spring bloom, for instance, can be difficult to plan on. The famous Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, Washington is usually in April. People come from all over the world to see the tulip fields at their peak. During intense effects from the El Niño weather inversion, tulips have bloomed up several weeks early, leaving the festival and parades celebrated among wilting or faded fields. Double check with local authorities, information or visitor’s bureaus for times and availability as things change from year to year.
Spring is a time of change. It is time for baby animals, new growth, rainbow fields of flowers, light rain and fog throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. The hardy explorers are out early with their cameras while the crowds are still few. It’s a good time for easy access and great weather conditions for photography. Spring storms offer excellent light and dramatic skies. Birds usually turn out in splendid and colorful jackets, sparkling in the sun. Look for new growth on trees and plants. Spring in the Texas Hill Country means wildflowers growing all along the road sides and everywhere. The plains get a new sparkle in their green fields. Everywhere things are usually luscious green and growing as the blanket of winter rolls up.
Summer is the time when more film is consumed than any other, besides holidays. People are outside, wandering around, kids are out of school, vacation time abounds, and the weather is such – you just want to be out there – along with everyone else. Summer, for the outdoor photographer, is not always the best time to photograph. The magic sunrise and sunset light comes and goes quickly, and overhead sunlight casts harsh shadows, exceeding the tonal range of the film.
During the summer, many popular outdoor recreation areas fill up quickly on weekends or holidays. Wherever there are lots of people, the incidents of crime escalate. You have to not only battle the heat and the harsh sunlight, you must fight the crowds. Security issues, advance planning, and reservations become even more important.
Many nature and outdoor photographers shun the heat and vote for travel and exploration of our natural areas during the less crowded seasons from Fall to Spring. Bright overcast days are more common during the fall and winter, bringing out the natural colors of your subject. Early morning and late afternoon light lasts longer, warming up your scenic or subject with rich and intense tones. Autumn is a time when all that is green or turned brown begins to radiate in rich, warm colors of red, orange, and gold. Trees begin their preparations for winter by changing color and losing their leaves. Many mammals also finish their preparations for winter with new warm fur growths and mating season rituals. Frost starts appearing again as the nights grow colder, creating fascinating patterns on leaves and plants. It is a last minute rush as nature begins to slow down for winter.
Winter makes the land turn into an interesting variety of textures, patterns, lines, and shapes. Winter whites, patterns in the snow, storms, ice, and the potential for winter photography is limited only by the photographer’s imagination. When snow and freezing temperatures are not available, work with the patterns in leafless trees, the bare ground, and other remnants of a warmer existence in nature. Window panes become frosted art exhibitions, icicles edge roofs like Christmas lights, and snow seems to change everything into a monochrome world. The crowds disappear into their warm homes and the nature areas return to the business of nature not tourists. Some areas, unbearably hot during the rest of the year, like the desert, are great places to visit with the drop in temperature during the winter.
When considering seasonal chases, here are some ideas to get you motivated: wildflowers, winter snows, fall color, pumpkins and scarecrows, icicles, grasslands in different seasons, winter wildlife, spring baby mammals, migrating birds, mammals with their heavy coats, rutting season, berry blossoms, berries in season, apples and other fruits at harvest time, migration time. Go out and put some season in your images.