Why Small Towns in Winter are Perfect for Photography

Why Small Towns in Winter are Perfect for Photography

No Need to Travel Far

Imagine this: It’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit in your quaint burg and you’re trying to find the inspiration for making pictures. For those of us in the Midwest’s finest snow belt, a decent pair of warm gloves and boots can be hard enough to find, let alone a dose of creativity.

Mancelona, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

No matter where you live, it can be challenging to find a place to make images. I bring up the winter aspects of it because these can be especially difficult conditions.

Not long ago, I found myself in such a predicament. The snow, cold and clouds suggested I should stay indoors and eat grilled cheese with soup instead of trudging through salt-laden streets hoping my camera’s batteries don’t die.

Get Outside

The difference between an artist and others is that artists make art. It’s that easy. With photography, especially street photography, we thrive on the unknown and the photographs that might be.

Mancelona, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Knowing this, it’s important to realize that the potential for wonderful pictures is out there and that we don’t fully realize what types of pictures we’ll capture until the day is done. That is precisely what I told myself prior to loading up my film camera and heading out to the nearby small town of Mancelona, Michigan.

Embrace Your Surroundings

Mancelona isn’t the type of town that would be most peoples’ first choice as a photographic destination. This is exactly the reason I chose it. It’s fresh photographic country. There’s personality there and it’s a hard-scrabble town with grit and structure.

The population of Mancelona: 1,366.

Mancelona, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

This is where the name Village Voyager comes into play. Small towns are full of photographic gold, you just have to look around. And, this is one of my favorite photographic pursuits.

Crunching through snow and ice, I was enjoying the colors that presented themselves through the gray of the day. Snow doesn’t hide color, it makes what color is there blast forth and become visible.

There typically isn’t a lot of activity taking place, especially in one as small as Mancelona. Before COVID-19, it was fun walking up to strangers, getting to know them, and making their picture of what it was they were doing, or making their portrait.

In the meantime though, it’s enjoyable appreciating and capturing details of small-town life: an old rusty car collecting more rust; buildings that have been standing for seemingly forever; and maybe even someone who has a unique lawn ornament.

Making Photographs For You

These types of photographs may or may not be award-winning pictures. But, that’s not the point of this at all. The point is that if you wish to create and grow as an artist, the most important thing you can do is hone your craft and the best way to do that is to simply get out there and do it.

No need to travel far. If you concern yourself with creating art by working smarter, instead of harder, you’ll find yourself building your skills.

2 thoughts on “Why Small Towns in Winter are Perfect for Photography”

  • When I moved back to New Zealand after 30 years of big city living in Australia I lived for the first few years in Bluff. It is a sea port and fishing port of 1,800 souls, gritty and real, photographic gold!

    • Hi Steve! That sounds like a most wonderful community to be in and to photograph. Bluff also sounds like a beautiful contrast to big city living. Living near the water for the better part of my life, there’s something special about coastline/fishing towns.

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