Winter Solstice

We often jokingly say that something will happen “as sure as the sun’s gonna rise tomorrow.” It’s comforting for humans to turn to nature to find consistency and reassurance that things are normal. Every year, either on December 21 or December 22, the part of the world I live in experiences Winter Solstice. It’s a time for celebration, as witnessed by many cultures from the ancient Romans (Saturnalia) to the Hopi Indians (Soyalangwul).

Today is the shortest day of the year, and by extension, tonight is the longest night. That means that tomorrow will be just a little bit longer than today. And next Saturday will be longer still. Each day will steal a few precious minutes of light from the night until day and night become equal and finally day triumphs over night.

At least for a few months, until the cycle repeats.

What does this have to do with photography, you may ask. Photography is light interrupted. When the days are short, cold and occasionally wet it’s hard to get out into the field and do much picture taking. So how does one feed the photo habit during the winter? Here’s a short list of ten great winter photo activities.

Back-up your images. This one is so important I am going to write it twice. Back up your images—at least the ones you do not want to lose. Buy an external hard drive (or two—they’re pretty cheap these days).

Macro (close-up) photography. Stop at the florist, buy the six most colorful flowers in their refrigerator and start snapping. If you get into this you may want to buy a true macro lens and tripod, but even if you don’t you can usually get some good pictures. At the very least you can get some color to counterbalance the muddy grays and whites of winter.

Learn how to use a bounce flash. Buy a set of NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) rechargeable batteries, charge them up and practice taking portraits of your kids, pets and neighbors until you’re happy with the results.

Post Process. Now is the time to browse, classify, organize and process all of the digital images you’ve been waiting to find time to get around to. I have a backlog so old that some were taken with a cell phone that had a dial instead of a keypad.

Learn CS4 or one additional feature of Photoshop Elements.

Shoot and edit a home video that people can actually bear to watch. (This process usually begins with a tripod and ends with a nicely labeled DVD.)

Upload, share and store. Find a congenial photo community website and create an account. It’s a nice way to share holiday or vacation pix, too.

Take a trip. Short of that, take a hike. Florida and Texas are warm destinations; if you don’t have the coin, put on your boots and gloves and drive to the closest state park.

Buy a photography book for your local library. Okay, that’s not really taking pictures, but photography is about more than just pressing the shutter. I grew up thinking that the Exakta was a worldclass camera because my local library back in Indiana had exactly one photography book: The Exakta Way. Too cheap to buy them a book? Then donate a couple of your old books.

Comment on this blog. I can think of only nine winter photo activities, off the top of my head, so if you can think of #10 please add it below.

Thank you.