16 December 2014

The In-Betweens

Elm leaf on icy backwater of the Pocantico River. Canon 7D, 180mm f/3.5L lens, ISO 400, f/16, 1/8 sec.

At least here in the Northeast (and even when I lived in the Mid-Atlantic) there seem to be seasons in between the established seasons. First there is the often cold, wet, and gray period between full-on winter and when spring finally takes a full grip on the earth. After the first thaws, but before the first wildflowers start to emerge. Then there is the period when the riot of spring flowers has died back and the trees are fully leafed out, but we haven't quite hit the long, hot, languorous days of summer. Most spring breeding animals have mates or have finished displaying, but the young of the year are not yet present or evident. Next comes the gorgeous days between summer and fall, where the heat dissipates, but the riot of fall foliage has not yet begun. Finally comes the season we are in now. The transition from fall to winter; when the trees are bare and the days can vary between, decent and brisk, and downright dismal, but we still haven't seen a lot of snow and it doesn't stick around long when it does come. When the once glorious foliage lies on the ground and becomes faded, grayed, and matted from the rains and snows.

Now these in-between seasons can vary in timing and duration, depending on your latitude and altitude, and proximity to large bodies of water, but it seems like most of the places I've lived experience them to one extent or another. When I lived in northern Virginia, the transition between spring and summer was pretty short, but the transition between fall and winter could almost be longer than winter itself in certain years. In southern New England, it seems the in-betweens, just like the regular four seasons, are given a more egalitarian treatment.

These in-between seasons can be challenging for nature photography. The grand landscapes (such as they are in the East), and even the small details, are not always so picturesque. While there are exceptions, there tends to be less drama in the natural world. Less animals are moving or engaging in breeding or other interesting behavior. A nature photographer might find themselves having to work harder to find good subjects and come away from a trip with some images worth keeping.

I find more and more that I enjoy that challenge. I like having to work harder, and engage my creativity more, to come away with some decent shots. I also love the silence and solitude that comes with these times. The crowds have gone home to wait for the next big thing, or moved to another location where the season is different, and one has the opportunity to stretch out and move at a slower pace. Things aren't quite as frenetic and the mood (and the photography) is a bit more deliberate and contemplative. So I, for one, will relish the in-betweens, and I look forward to the next transition.

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