I was up very early this morning. In the streets of East London I watched the pre-dawn sky change colour, from the magnificent midnight blue to ever lighter shades of blue. Colourful ribbons of pinks and yellows burst across the sky, and little wisps of purple and blue clouds appeared and disappeared at random.
There is some warmth to the early morning air now, an exciting sign that spring is here and we are entering my favourite period of life in London. Warmth, sunshine, and it feels like everyone is opening up as they come out of their winter hibernation.
Today I am not offering any big challenging teachings – today I want to give you something easy, something light and joyful. We have to be light and joyful sometimes right? Especially with the thing we love so much – taking photos and being creative!
First thing – today I want to focus on the subject of spring. What could be more joyful for us creatures who are emerging from the dark cold of winter into this light-filled nature-filled spring time? I know not all of you are in a springtime area, but I think you can sympathise, right?
Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’
Second thing – as you know, photography is not just about the aesthetics. It’s about capturing and evoking emotion. How many ‘pretty’ photos have you seen in your life that have created no lasting impact. ZILLIONS. Even if your subject is gorgeous and wonderful, you still need an additional element – lighting, an interesting expression or something that will invoke emotion.
My challenge today is to encourage you to go out and capture the feelings of spring – ebullient, hopeful, sorrowful…whatever they may be. And if you’re not in a spring-zone, then you can capture any mood created by a season.
I thought this is a perfect challenge for people who struggle to get emotion into their photography. If you start with something pretty simple like this, then you can build up your confidence to capture some more complex emotions.
Now – let’s explore some themes that we could bring into our spring photos.
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.
Spring is a pretty hopeful time me thinks. Light pouring into our lives after a time of relative darkness. That’s why I think this photo of the daffodils feels like a ‘hope’ photo.
I am definitely up for some renewal right now! In fact, I believe in having regular times of renewal and rejuvenation. But unlike that feeling of renewal at the beginning of January that seems to come, I believe, from a place of guilt or panic (Must improve my life! Must get fit and start saving!) the feeling of spring’s renewal feels fun and frivolous, and very creative. A time to play with your photography, a time to experiment and explore.
Desire for adventure
In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move.
Having grown up in a different era where I could go out and play unattended for hours at a time, in a place that was basically summer and spring-like all year, there is something incredibly evocative for me seeing my kids in nature. But don’t we all have that nostalgic feeling when we see kids playing in nature; even my London-born wife who didn’t have the kind of outdoor adventurous life that I did feels wistful at the sight of our kids muddy and playing with sticks.
Even if it’s not about kids there is an opening up of the spirit when spring arrives. You stop hunkering down in the cold, and possibilities, ideas, thoughts of adventures start to flow. So adventure feels like a good theme for your photographs.
This photo below could be called ‘young love’. To me it is all about that feeling of beautiful weather and being finally outside, being with someone you like a lot, plus that playfulness that young couples have.
To get these kinds of shots you have to (respectfully) really look at, and notice, the interactions between people. So not just what they look like, but the dynamic they are creating together. You have to look, notice and then step forth and be brave and click when you see something interesting.
Spring has a definite feeling to it; the air somehow changes, people’s mood changes, and to capture not just an individual mood of something, but the the mood of a place is a great thing to practise in your photography.
I mean think about it, right. Every day you go out of your house and there is a mood or feeling created by the time of day, the weather, and any other extraneous events going on. Like when it’s dark there could be a sinister feeling, or an earthy atmosphere at the beginning of autumn.
For me there was a palpable mood the day after the Brexit referendum, for example, or the day after the US elections. When there is a collective contemplation about an event that also seems to change the atmosphere.
The sheer vitality of life
Sometimes it can be displaying the sheer amazing aliveness that spring brings into our lives. Waking up the soil, bringing millions of flowers, plants and trees into a dazzling life-affirming display.
As with everything, though, there is always an edge, an opposite
To all of this life and vitality there is also the reminder that darkness, loss, winter, are also part of life. I think this photo hints at that edge, the darkness that is looming after the burst of colour and life.
The delight of spring light
Gotta love all that light in spring. Especially as our days get longer. Here is a very typical shot for me. Light and shadow – the shadow creating a nice contrast to the beautiful light, and that contrast makes the light more intense and more delightful.
I also love interesting lines. Can you see the horizontal lines which, although not straight, are creating structure in the photo? Then the last element is the contrast of the old crumbly wall and the beautiful delicate flowers, which is another ‘typical’ thing I do. Contrasting old and new, fresh and decaying, light and dark. The contrasting elements always help to enhance the other, making them more ‘decaying’ or more ‘fresh’ looking.
The play of light and shadow, though, is what makes it a good shot, as you can see here. This is a similar composition but not as good.
Can you see how the set up in the two photos is almost the same – the ancient crumbling wall contrasted with the pretty vibrant flowers. I ‘organised’ the elements of the photo along horizontal lines, almost rule-of-third-ish. But of course the difference with the last photo is the absence of incredible light!
As if I need to tell my regular readers how important light is! You guys totally know don’t you?!?.
So I hope you enjoyed that! I hope it makes your feet itch and you want to get out and take photos.
I am wrapping up a very exciting week where I launched my new book. It arrived from the printer on Monday (you can see me ‘unboxing’ it here.) It was super thrilling to see all this work we’ve been doing come to fruition. Can I say too that it is an awesome, awesome book, really my best yet?
You can still get one of the last books that I have of East London at Dawn right here. But they won’t be available for long as my stock has almost run out!
Have a great day, and happy photographing! As always let me know what you think! Comment below, I love hearing from you.
Anthony and Diana