For most people, winter usually means spending a lot of time curled up in the couch, binge-watching the newest series that everyone is talking about. Going for long walks to capture photographs may not be the top of mind for some people as the general grey-ness of the environment discourages most of us to take photographs.
Australian winters are pretty unique because unless you live up in the mountains, we don’t generally experience a lot of snow. We have cold, sometimes rainy days that lack snow. This gives a pretty new take on the term “winter photography” because it’s winter photography sans the snow.
Here are some tips to help you get over the winter blues and to inspire you to take some winter photographs.
Take advantage of the new colours
Winter has a particular shade to it, the weather is a lot colder and the environment is definitely a lot colder as well. Taking the exact same photograph at a different time of the year will surely look different when done in the winter because there are more greys, blues and browns.
The sun stays on a much lower angle in the sky during the winter season. This means that the light is less harsh and more angular throughout the day. Winter also means a lot of overcast and gloomy days which means that the light is soft and even.
Take photographs of people
The nice, soft light throughout winter makes for really great portrait photography because it’s a more flattering light for faces.
Soft light means you can focus more on details without worrying about overexposure or too much contrast. There are no shadows, the face is evenly lit and the light fills out the dark lines around the wrinkles and blemishes which gives your subject a better appearance.
I also love taking “man on the street” or “The Sartorialist” style shots of people because winter is a time when people can layer up and experiment with the different ways clothes can keep them warm.
Look out for the changes in nature
Some people might think that there’s no use trying to photograph nature in the winter since the trees are bare, the leaves are on the ground and everything is pretty much grey and dry. I find this to be the opposite. Winter is a perfect time play around with the concept of what outdoor photography really is.
One way to do this is to try composing a photograph with these different elements in the foreground. A bare tree branch, some fallen leaves, anything that gives a hint of winter set against a landscape will help tell the story of how winter is. Including these different elements in the shot situates the image in a particular time and season and you could end up with a unique image.
Another way to utilise bare trees is to purposely blur the photo to come up with a more abstract image. I use a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds and move the camera around while taking the photograph. The result is usually eery, and the bare, more slender lines of the trees make for an interesting image.
The winter is the only time we are able to see how branches look without all the leaves attached to them. This means that it’s a good time to take silhouette shots of the different branches and stems that are completely bare or close to getting there.
Get inspired by other works of art
The advent of the popularity of different social media apps has given way to a new and easier way to edit and exhibit the photographs we take. The winter can be a good time to embark on mini creative projects that will inspire you or give you that much-needed nudge to take more photos during the season.
One project that should help you is to come up with photo stories that encapsulate this particular season. Look to other works of art to give you cues or to give you a theme that you can work with. When I’m feeling bored or uninspired, I like reading poetry and taking photographs that visualise certain lines from the work. I then upload the photos on Instagram with the poem as the caption.
Find things that make Australian Winters unique
Our mostly snow-less winters is what makes winters in Australia unique. When I first moved to Melbourne, someone told me that “Melbourne has a lot of outdoor activities in the summer, and indoor activities in the winter”, which is true for the rest of the country as well.
Find activities or events that happen exclusively in the winter: from concerts, to art exhibits, to open houses to film festivals to food and wine festivals. Going to these events and photographing them will help keep you warm, while giving you an opportunity to photograph things that only go on during Australian winters.