Winter Light Celebration

As winter settles in, the sun is slipping lower and lower across the sky. During the winter solstice here in Winnipeg, Manitoba the sun barely clears the treetops. Such low-angled rays of light are magical, and to celebrate the season I’ve gathered some winter light photography snapshots from recent years…

I find that winter light is particularly well-suited to capturing surreal window reflections, allowing for layers of light and colour to blend with abstracted patterns. When illuminated from a low angle, snow becomes a textural wonderland of sparkling deep drifts, painted with fading light and blue shadows.

Trees and winter light

Filtering the last rays of golden hour, or catching a gilded glow in their bare branches against blue skies. Such stark winter forms are welcome whether framing sunsets or arching above city streets, as they lend shape and contrast to the winter light all day long.

Trees lend structure to the frosty winter air, and when they are illuminated just-so, they often compliment the bones of the landscape or urban environment, laid bare by the season.

Winter light and interior spaces

Casting soft, surreal shadows in unexpected places, light filtered through old glass windows is particularly irresistible to try and capture with the camera. Something as simple as an unintentional coffee cup still life might appear on a wall for a moment, painted in shadow and quick to disappear as the light shifts.

Often the swaying of winter branches will make these patches of light dance and shift, like light through moving water as seen at the bottom of a pool.

Varied views of the same cityscape

Downtown Winnipeg features a mix of older buildings and newer highrises. As their facades catch and reflect the winter light throughout the day, the mood and feel of the cityscape changes too. With the early sunset, lights in windows twinkle while the dusky sky still holds onto the last of the sunlight. The moon rises over the city with its glow softened by the icy atmosphere.

The golden glow of the winter light is especially beautiful contrasted with the blue shadows and snow of the cityscape, and I couldn’t resist the reflection of a sunlit building in the sideview mirror on a winter’s afternoon.

Windows become magical glittering surfaces…

Frosted with ice crystals or illuminated by gently shifting shadows. Layers of light are caught and transformed inside and out, and even though the daylight hours are short, there seems to be no end to the beauty that winter can conjure with a bit of moisture or shifting light on glass surfaces.

The two images at the bottom left of these wintery window scenes are actually shots of frost accumulation on the inside of an old set of windows. The two images in the bottom right are of the same perspective through fluted glass at different times of day.

Of course a winter landscape is made even more beautiful by the light…

Rippling sheets of icy clouds and endless shades of blue. Sunsets last longer, and the blushing glow of their colours is often reflected in the snow and ice. Often the sky looks like mother-of-pearl, iridescent and luminous.

I love how the winter landscape is often a study in subtley, with fence-lines and horizons blurred by blowing snow, and the sky a soft gradient veiled in lacy clouds. When the sunsets are colourful, it is always in shades made more vivid by the coolness of the surrounding scene.

Little details of domestic life are illuminated in beautiful light and shadow, turning the long winter months of staying mostly indoors into magical journeys through familiar spaces.

Something as simple as a tissue or glass of water can be transformed by the winter light. Of course the dog loves the winter sunlight too, and can often be found basking in the glow of those fleeting, low-angled rays of warmth.

All of the photos in this post are from various phone cameras. I find that winter light often inspires snapshots as it is such a fleeting and beautiful part of every day. To see new snapshots as I share them, just head over to @photoapk on Instagram and follow me there!

Descent, architectural detail | San Francisco, California

Wandering the streets of San Francisco with a camera has always been a rewarding experience; along with being an interesting, often picturesque urban environment, there is endless opportunity for the unexpected.

This is a favourite image from my archives, captured on a relaxed summer afternoon of city exploration. I had never ventured far into one of the commercial complexes near the Embarcadero Plaza, and was wandering through the network of bridges and walkways that linked shops and restaurants in a canyon of office buildings and hotels. At one crossing of paths, I noticed a stairway leading down to the level below, and paused to admire the echo of form, texture, and tone in the large fern that grew in the curve of the stairs.

Architectural urban detail, a woman walks down a spiral staircase in downtown San Francisco

While composing the frame and trying to balance shapes and leading lines, a woman walked down the stairs, and as she reached the bottom I captured a single frame. I had not planned on the human element, but I love how it adds a sense of motion to an otherwise static scene. In black and white, the texture and tone of the mosaic floors and fern become more cohesive, and the spiralling, circular structures of concrete, plant, railing and tile frame and compliment each other, tying it all together.

This image is included in my Black and White Prints collection, and offers both architectural interest and a timeless moment full of details that invite reflection.

Digital Darkroom Notes | First Steps

Two weeks in Italy is a photographic dream come true – colorful, textural architecture, beautiful sunlight, gorgeous landscapes and coastal scenery. Several memory cards later, after the fun of exploring and photographing is done, the post-processing begins.

Without fail, it appears daunting at first, and over the years I’ve developed a few simple steps that will help with the digital darkroom workflow, making the overall project more manageable.

In my early Lightroom days, organizing photos was an afterthought, but as my archives grew it became imperative that initial sorting happen before editing began. It can be incredibly exciting to dive right into an edit, and occasionally I’ll allow myself the pleasure of a little preliminary editing of an image I’m particularly excited about, h, but for any larger project I try to stick to sorting first, editing after.

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With travel photography, creating collections based on accurate locations is an obvious choice, and in this case I am using a numbered structure to keep the collections in an accurate sequential order. Some of these collections will be refined further as I edit, and this flexibility is part of the beauty of using Lightroom to manage large collections of images.

My first pass through any batch, big or small, is simply to identify viable content and ‘flag’ it. This allows me to filter out the frames that are problematic and to quickly focus my editing attention on the frames that have the greatest potential. I have also flagged some frames that are merely for reference purposes – photos of signs, for example – as I will use those details to build accurate keywords and descriptions, and want those relevant frames to ‘float’ up through the editing process alongside the flagged images.

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Of 2347 total images captured in Italy, I have 1440 flagged. Around 50 of these are reference frames only. Another 100-150 are near-frames, which will require some editing and comparison before I can choose the best from those sequences. Another 50-100 images will be for personal use, shots of family mostly, and will not be included in the final edited batch uploaded to my website. So I am looking at a final edited total of roughly 1100 images, likely closer to 750, as I am constantly paring down my selections during the edit process, so that only the strongest images survive.

Now that these simple first few steps are complete, the work I have ahead of me doesn’t look quite so monumental. I can see that for some of the locations, the edits will be short and sweet, while others will require more time, and I can at-a-glance choose batches of photos for editing based on what kind of time I may have to spend in the digital darkroom on a particular day.

There are many tools and configurations offered by Lightroom and similar programs, to ease the process of organizing large batches of photos, and my workflow continues to evolve with experience. I have worked within the massive archives of other photographers, and managed digital assets in various commercial environments; I am always fascinated by the challenge of finding the organizational structure that best suits the ways in which different minds prefer to work. The biggest lesson over the years has been to pay attention to how my editing and end-use-requirements have changed, and to identify strategic ways of organizing my files, so that my workflow becomes entirely intuitive. What works for me may not work for others, but any approach to refining one’s own digital asset management can benefit from insight into how someone else has solved similar problems.

Now the real fun begins…