The season right after winter and right before summer is a strange one indeed, especially when it comes to photography. Of course, depending on where in the world you are, springtime has different meanings and styles. In the Midwest of the U.S., it’s a time when the snow is melting—not that a snowstorm won’t hit—revealing all it’s buried for the past many months. Piles of dirt-infused snow lie heaped in retail parking lots, a towering reminder of what plows scooped up so customers could shop. The more the snow melts, the darker it becomes as the dirt closes in on itself, and what was pristine white snow simply melts.
To most, it’s not a visually interesting time.
Also, summer hasn’t quite arrived. What will be dancing green leaves in warm breezes are only buds, if that.
Needless to say, it can be difficult to find photographic inspiration. But, know this readers, photography needs no specific season or reason. Photography only needs you.
Making Time For Spring Pictures, of Whatever
A free day presented itself in spring when I was able to make images. This is always difficult because there are so many options for places to photograph. I decided to drive through a couple small towns about 40 minutes north of home. My plan was my sometimes my favorite plan, which is no plan.
With my ‘no plan’ plan in place, I traveled northward bound passing soon-to-be-bustling fruit orchards, glimpses of Lake Michigan when the roadway elevation was high enough and crows flying here and there with some purpose only they know about.
Eventually, I arrived about a mile south of a small town called Charlevoix. There was a red car that immediately caught my eyes. This is one of the greatest reasons to photograph in during the drab brows and greys of spring—colors pop.
It wasn’t clear to me what a good photographic angle would be for photographing this scene, I just knew I wanted to photograph it. I try to hone in on something simple, compositionally, as I’m working a scene. My photographic medium was film so , of course, the pace was a little slower. After a few close-up perspectives, I decided to take a step back and make a simple image of the car at the corner of the lot. This ended up being my favorite image of the car and parking lot. Sometimes, less is more.
Stepping back and taking a simple scene setting picture can be all you need. The content and color of the image can be enough.
After that I began my homeward trip. It wasn’t long—maybe 10-15 minutes—until I arrived to the quaint town of Atwood. Atwood is a small town that has people driving through it more than stopping at it. Atwood is beautiful though. From my recollections of Atwood, I know it has a farm implement dealer, an antique store, a church—I once photographed a live nativity scene there for an assignment—and a lumber yard. Atwood is much more than that, of course, but these are my visual recollections.
It was the lumberyard I was interested in on this trip. I’m drawn to simple signs and a lumber building with the words ‘Lumber’ written in can’t be much simpler. The soft, diffused light added to the scene so I pulled my car up to the building and made a couple of frames.
After that, I turned around and enjoyed a view of Atwood. A working farm was across the highway, with fog-blanketed fields and trees beyond that. Being there in person was as quiet as the scene would suggest, maybe quieter.
This photo excursion wasn’t about trying to capture an award-winning picture or anything like that. This trip was about being out in the world, appreciating surroundings and enjoying photography, even in post-snow spring. The satisfaction of that is the best award.