Growing up here in the South of the UK, we see surprisingly little of it. This, of course, may be a good thing for many as whenever a couple of inches touch down in London, the city grinds to a halt and the media collectively lose their shit.
That said, snow is one of the greatest gifts to a photographer. It changes the shape and texture of the landscape. It allows for higher contrast images, like a natural black-and-white setting. It acts as a massive reflector, adding a native glow to the ground and making night shoots easier. Best of all, it scares 90% of the population indoors and out of the way!
As such, when it snows I grab my gear and head out straight away. Earlier this year, I decided to walk my way to Milton Keynes city centre, leaving at around 0500 and reaching my destination about 0900. In that time, I got to track the rising sun and the effect it had on the landscape with so much snow around to bounce the light. Funnily enough, most of my favourite images I took from my phone and so didn’t actually need to haul my kit bag out in the cold (more on this later).
There’s no grand lesson to be had here; just that I like snow, and here are some pictures of snow. Next time it does snow though, try heading out yourself. You might be surprised how a familiar area looks after a brief dusting of the white stuff.
It won’t be the first time I’ve said it, but I really like this picture.
I could go on about colour and composition, and knowing me I probably will, but the thing I love most about this picture is the shift in perspective. As someone growing up in the UK, where we don’t have the big gnarly spiders of warmer climes, I’m used to seeing these things as a shuffling ball of legs with no real body or face. In spite of how scared of these guys I am, I find them fascinating. It is believed that you are never more than 10 feet away from a spider at any time.
In fact, there’s one directly above me right now. Hmm.
For those of you who aren’t read up on your UK weather patterns, this summer was a warm one, and those spiders which are usually only little and small got pretty freaking big. After a shoot at a local park, I was walking back and passed by a thick gorse-like bush covered in thick webs. On closer inspection I saw that each little patch of web had a not-so-little-spider tucked away, and in some cases I could make out some really interesting features and colours with my own eyes, let alone looking through the zoom lens. I decided to return the next day at around 10am, to get some clearer sunlight overhead.
Luckily, by the time I arrived the rain had long since cleared and the spiders were, for the most part, out in the centre of their webs. From that point on it was a case of remaining quiet so as not to spook them and dropping down to their level. Shooting at f5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/1600 without a tripod, the key challenge was re-framing as the subjects kept shifting about and rapidly darting across their webs.
The reason that I loved this project, and especially that first image, is that readjustment in perspective, taking these creatures which are so small and largely ignored in this country and placing them above the viewer, bigger than the viewer. It is easy to imagine how freaking terrifying it would be to be insect-sized and have these guys as a natural predator; the dark eyes, the strangely-balanced bulk, the patient and eerie intelligence. To imagine standing before the spider in that top picture as it approaches…
To me a good picture tells a story, and that’s so dependent on composition. Most cameras have onboard processes that can alter settings to optimise the image quality, but there is nothing on there that can help you compose the picture to get the best narrative out of it. Perspective is one of the most subjective elements of reading an image, but there are norms that we take as a given (i.e; people are bigger than spiders). Taking one of those general rules of thumb and subverting them through camera placement or perspective manipulation can lead to some great pictures, with some great stories in them.
I’m going to go now, because that spider above my head is no longer above my head and I’m starting to worry.