The beauty of learning photography in the cold

©karlgrupe (13 of 1)


While summer tends to be a popular time for course enrolments, autumn and winter provide their own unique character and shouldn’t be shelved simply because it’s cold or raining out.  For one thing there is the light! Light during this time of year is low and dramatic. Especially during the midday, it casts long shadows and creates a depth to an image that feels and records differently from the sharp, aggressive summer light. If you approach photography thinking of light not only as the way you spatially arrange a photograph but also as your colour palette, autumn and winter light offer colours quite different from summer. If it is sunny the cool tones of cyan and blue mixing with limp oranges and reds create for a strong, clean feel. If it is cloudy out the grey makes for a dramatic monotone application – and for those not used to shooting in black and white, your colour options can melt away to the heavy grey which inhabit these seasons.

Add in ground frost, snow and the trees now bare of leaves and a minimalist tonal structure starts to take shape. Head out to any city park in the morning before the busy city traffic and pedestrian life tamper with the scene and you can witness the potential for beautiful, clean imagery that lingers in the long notes. The vibe is lazy, slow, introspective, deep. The city lights leak pools of amber and white light onto a fresh canvas on the earth and pavement and the quiet of your early morning seeps into the photographic image.

Speaking of pedestrian traffic – heading out into rush-hour rain with your kit can present unique opportunities as well. People dressed in thick coats and hiding under umbrellas create clusters of podophyllum-like forms in the concrete, glass and asphalt of any city center. These forms offer excellent black and white print options as the figures morph into organic shapes juxtaposed against a city’s architecture.

These are some of the content related opportunities that the autumn and winter provide. An additional benefit to autumn and winter photographic education is the technical challenge of reduced daylight to no daylight. Evening courses tend to be taught with locations lit only by street/store and office light. Students learn to work with artificial atmospheric lighting and how they can ‘see in the dark’. Technical awareness increases, and the focus on crafting an image overrides any reliance on automatic features of the camera. The need to pay attention to the technicalities of exposure/metering control and shutter/aperture/ iso settings increases dramatically in the evening and low-lit urban situations. Accidents are easily made but there is learning in such accidents. Over and underexposure has the opportunity to be examined not as a mistake or error but as creative potential. Students may decide to intentionally push exposure/ blur/ out-of-focus mechanics because the scene simply allows this to be a successful approach. It’s not uncommon for students to feel a freedom and play in their approach to photography. This sort of thinking opens up creative zones, having the student colour outside of the lines. No longer is the thinking about aligning the scene to what the rigid camera mechanics read – but what the photographer sees and wishes to record according to visceral response.

While there is no doubt that the physical comfort level changes during these cooler seasons, the creative opportunities are worth putting that extra layer of clothing on and getting out there. Even if the pictures don’t turn out as we expect, getting up early and being the only one out on the street to see a fresh blanket of frost or warming up at the end of class with a hot chocolate and biscuit, autumn and winter presents opportunities that are worth a chill on the cheeks.

We’re now taking enrolments for the Autumn and Winter 2015 sessions. You can find all the information about our Adult and Teen course listings here.

Words and Image by Karl Grupe © 2015

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