Spring Shooting Ideas … For You!

According to the calendar hanging on the wall above my desk, spring officially began on March 20 this year. However, according to the number of days I have comfortably worn shorts, flip-flops and have forgotten to wear sunscreen, (which of course is a more accurate calendar), spring has only been around for a few days. This is OK though. Simply knowing that better, brighter, longer, warmer days are a’ comin’ should give us all something to look forward to.

With the longer days that are right around the corner, it’s time to think about what to do with the all the “extra” sunlight we will be experiencing. As with any season, spring comes with it’s own aesthetic. As photographers, we can play on this as much or as little as we want. Below are a few ideas of what to shoot in spring and what to think about when doing so. This is not an all-inclusive list, and I would love to hear your ideas and better yet, to see the results of your own springtime shooting.


Idea #1:
Spring, for many photographers is like a water fountain for someone stuck in the desert … pretty amazing. With the increase in daylight and daylight hours, the phenomenon of photosynthesis kicks into high gear. Plants and flowers feed off the sun and begin to come to life. Definitely a time of rejuvenation. If you are a macro photographer, you are no stranger to springtime shooting. However, if you have never experimented with macro, consider accepting this challenge: Identify at least three locations that provide a good display of springtime color and photograph them as a macro photographer. This means you will need to get up close, and possibly wrangle together some special equipment, like a macro lens or a Lensbaby. Don’t panic, you don’t need to blow the tax return on new glass. Try renting a lens from Borrow Lenses for a fraction of the cost. Then if you like it, you’ll know it’s a smart investment.


Idea #2:
Another wonderful thing about spring is the transition from morning to day and back into evening. Often times the mornings are a roll of the dice in terms of the weather and its effect on nature.  This temperament can be exciting for the landscape photographer. Here’s your challenge: Pick a location that lends itself to good landscape photography. Pack your camera bag with a tripod and whatever other gear you think you’d like to use. Set the alarm clock for an hour before sunrise. When that obscene hour rolls around, grab the bag (and some coffee of course), and get to the location to experiment with creating images as the morning transitions into day. If possible, try getting to a location where you can be near water. Often times in spring, before the heat of the day has had a chance to warm up the air, mist will form over bodies of water. The result for you can be amazing images of mist-covered natural features.


Idea #3:
A third self challenge is to use the aesthetic of spring to your advantage in designing a good portrait. What colors do you think of when you think of spring? Black? Brown? No, of course not. You think of pastels. Yellow, pink, light blue, light green… you know, just think of the candy aisle at the grocery store around Easter. And your spring portrait challenge is: Using spring’s pallet of colors, make a portrait that pops. How should you approach this? Easy. Just refer to a tool we all learned about in middle school art class: the color wheel! Knowing that the Northern Hemisphere’s landscape is beginning to turn green in spring, consult a color wheel to choose colors that play well against the color of your chosen location. Know of a beautiful green field? Try dressing your model in red, or adding a splash of red in an otherwise green scene. If your yard is like mine and full of yellow flowers (ok … they’re dandelions!), what color would you use to complement them?


 Idea #4:
If you are reading this in or near Missoula, or any mountain town for that matter, you are no doubt keenly aware of the effect spring has on the snowpack up in the hills. It makes the rivers and streams move fast and furious. Providing you are uber-careful and watch your step near the banks of these fast-moving waters, there are excellent photo-ops to be had. With your camera on a tripod, try slowing down your shutter speed to various durations to capture the flow of the water.  Conversely, try a fast shutter speed to freeze the water’s motion. To really spice things up, have your assistant (you have one right?) toss a colorful toy in the water upstream. Try to incorporate this color element into your image.  And of course, make sure there is a way to get it out of the water when you are done! Perhaps you could tie it to a tree on the bank.

Idea #5:
Lucky for us, many, many smart people from many, many years ago figured out that the Earth is a creature of habit, therefore making it possible to figure out when the sun will “rise” and “set.” In our Summer Intensive program, students learn about the different stages of twilight, both in the morning and evening. Civil, nautical and astronomical twilight, as these stages are called, refer to periods of time before and after the sun rises or sets. The light during each of these periods of time has a corresponding quality. Obviously this is important to know as the quality of light means everything to us as photographers. (Although, I’ve noticed it means a whole lot less if I have to wake up at 4:03 a.m. to catch a sunrise … but that’s just me). However, if you are a person who enjoys photographing in the morning, it will be handy to know where the sun will be at any given time. To figure this out, it’s as simple as brushing the dust off your sextant logging on to a site that has a sunrise / sunset calculator. This one works well for my needs. Pick a location that allows you to watch the sunrise and/or sunset. Get to this location with your camera and a schedule of when the different twilight times are, and experiment with photographing during each phase.

If you accept one or all of these challenges, we’d love to see your results. Send images to blog@rmsp.com with “spring shots” in the subject line. (Images should be 72 ppi,  700 px on the long edge, jpg).