A late winters day

Living in Minnesota for the last twenty years has taught me one thing:

Never underestimate the power of a warm day.

That might sound like an axiom, but one word qualifies it all…Minnesota. Granted it is not cold as our Canadian neighbors, but it is still cold, and covered in snow four months out of the year. It all works out for the best really; I work as a real estate photographer from April until October. From November through January I work as a portrait photographer (families still ask for Holiday family pictures in January.) That gives me a couple of months to catch up on my own work in earnest.

Do not get me wrong, I managed to photograph properties in January, amid three other part time jobs, but work as a real estate photographer is just a little sparse this time of the year. As for portraits? They are always out there, but dealing with crying babies, uncooperative kids, teens who come defiant to the wishes of their parents can present challenges and not conducive to creative work. So, you can end up with a couple of months of idle time. I used to dread idle time. I always thought that if I was not all consumed with some method of making money, I was wasting opportunities. Now I have a better appreciation of the saying, “Wine improves with age.”

I have found that February and March are like the end of year for my business. It is a time to collect, compile and analyze data and make some correction of errors from the previous year. And, there is always something I could have done better the previous year. It is a time to invest in other passions, like reading, binge watching on Netflix or Prime Video. Or something more valuable; investing in relationships that are important to you. It is also a valuable time to springboard a few rough drafts for upcoming blogs!

Untitled B&W #6
From a portfolio entitled “A late Winters Day”
© Scott Dickey Photography 2019
Nikon D3
Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5
1/320th sec @ f/16
ISO 400

Just last week we were blessed with a warm later winter day. It was Friday and the temperature at 1:00 pm was hovering in the mid-forties. That might not be warm to you. But up here in St. Paul we were just coming out of single digit highs! Forties were a forty-degree swing. Balmy!

Since my 3:00 pm real estate photo shoot cancelled on me, I had the rest of a Friday afternoon open. Now, for transparency sake, I considered calling the work week done and start a weekend early. But I could see the cloudless day, and the sunny skies calling me to get out there and see what I could see.

Always a sucker for a clear blue sky, I grabbed my camera and hit the road for a stretch of forest I have photographed extensively for the past three years. I knew that area like the back of my hand, and since I did have an engagement at five that afternoon, I didn’t want to spend hours trekking around the wood in search of the perfect picture “just around the corner.”


Untitled #4 B&W
© Scott Dickey Photography 2019
From a portfolio entitled ” A late Winter Day”
Nikon D3
Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5
1/500th sec @ f/16
ISO 400

Within ten minutes I had the car parked and was getting set to step off the paved road and start on the muddy, slushy paths that ringed the preserve. Since I knew the area well, I knew exactly where to go to get the best shots. So, I avoided those spots and started looking at the forest with fresh eyes.

I went out with certain expectations in mind. In effort to produce the expectations I rifled through old work on my hard drive prior to going out. While doing this I discovered one thing for sure: I went through a phase where contrast was king. I monkeyed with several images in Adobe Photoshop to see if I could beat down the contrast. I was successful but also noticed some softness to the images. I attributed this to two factors:

  1. I was not using the self-time mode or a remote shutter release
  2. I was using a knock-off tripod that was not holding the camera steady during the slow exposure times

When I arrived at the woods this time, I determined to use the self-timer and use the professional tripod I use in real estate work. I also made three bracketed exposure – HDR if it deemed useful or at least one image that captured all the data within the range I wanted since I went out intending to convert these to black and white in Adobe Photoshop.

Untitled #8 B&W
© Scott Dickey Photography 2019
Nikon D3
Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5
1/800th sec @ f/16
ISO 400

I also wanted to put to rest a problem I discovered last summer in my landscape images. My work started to seem confused and disorganized. My images were a tangle of branches, overgrown vegetation, and several trees springing from somewhere outside the frame. It all appeared so aimless and random. I started to see tension and stress. I am certain I had a plan back then, I even had positive feedback from my peers concerning these images, but I could not detect a plan in the many photographs I looked through. I had abandoned the discipline that my work used to have. The care and concern for what was in the viewfinder was gone. So, six months later all I saw in that summer work was a confusing mess that left me feeling I had no clear idea of what I was trying say.

I have always thought of myself as a minimalist photographer. I love to tell a story in as few words as possible; the less I can provide you the more interpretation on your part. But that was not ringing true in those images, it was time to get back to my roots. In these images there is still something missing. There probably always will be something missing. That is what qualifies as growth.

This work is an effort (helped by the lack of vegetation) to return to that thinking.

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