As we move into spring, I thought it would be a nice time to acknowledge how lucky we are in this part of the world to have four distinct seasons. I find the constantly progressing seasonal changes to be life-affirming, and inspiring. In the busyness of everyday life it's easy to overlook the refreshing change of scene they usher in.
I can imagine many people would prefer to have summer all year round - or at least for longer than we do get it in the UK. But personally, I'd find that dull. I really value the slow march of our tri-monthly window dressing. It keeps you on your toes, and when I'm bored or out for a walk, I like to look for evidence of where nature is in it's annual cycle, and to look for clues to it's readiness for the next transition. It's a great mindfulness exercise for mental health; experiencing life in the moment and tuning into the progress of the seasons. From budding trees in February & March, to amber autumn ferns, and right through to the gloaming of the winter solstice. The seasons track time consistently, always hinting at what's coming next, like a real-life season-finale cliff-hanger.
This blog post celebrates the joy of the seasonal changes we experience, and some of my favourite seasonal photos.
I took this deer photo one January, a few years ago. Sadly, we don't get snow as regularly as we used to, so this is now an increasingly rare opportunity. I spent hours out in the sub-freezing weather that day. My feet were like ice by the time I got home, but it's a memory that's stayed with me ever since. It's always worth going out and getting wet and cold. Then you get home, warm up, and down a stodgy pudding - maybe fruit crumble. That's a proper winter experience.
I'd love to live somewhere with a few months of snow every year. The photo below depicts a harsh winter, in Finland. I like the graphic nature of this image, and the way that the snow on the ground and in the air simplifies everything. It just makes me want to be there, walking with the sound of snow under foot.
Back home now, and another winter favourite; grey seal pupping season. The UK is home to 95% of Europe's grey seals, and witnessing a colony in winter is one of our great wildlife spectacles, in my opinion.
I've frozen my hands and feet on a blustery winter beach enough times to recall it very well. It's not everyone's idea of fun, but you really know you're alive when you do these things.
By late February, there are signs of spring on the way. I like to check the trees I walk past, and by this time of year they're full of budding leaves. They look ready to go, but they show remarkable patience; waiting until the day-length reaches their required trigger-point. For me, seeing those budding trees is a sure sign spring is just around the corner.
A favourite season for many, where landscapes are transformed green, and nature imbues positivity across the board. Right now many of the trees in our area are adorned with catkins; a precursor to the imminent arrival of those leaves, which won't be long now.
Personally I just can't think of spring without going straight to bluebells. They're one of my favourite subjects for landscape photography, and they epitomise the season for me. They're another British speciality, and I strongly recommend getting out for a walk in a bluebell wood if you can. It's multi-sensory experience. This photo is a favourite of mine as it's multi-shot panorama, so it's huge and packed with little details.
I guess the springtime wildlife cliché would be hatching chicks or fluffy bunnies. At this time of year, I prefer my bunnies in chocolate form. After all, it's important to eat seasonally. Photographically, there's another member of the Leporidae family I enjoy, and that's the brown hare. They're more active in spring, with their 'boxing', and easier to see than in summer, when the long grass / crops provide keep them hidden from sight. I took this 'close-up' with a long lens, and I really like how it captures the physicality of that wiry hair, and the thought behind that huge eye staring back.
In spring 2020, during the golden age of covid lock-downs, I amused myself by collecting and photographing freshly-sprung leaves from our local area. At the time, I was creating single 'leaf portraits', but at some point since then I decided to combine them into a collage image, along with the tree name, and scientific species name. I don't know why. We have plenty of tea towels as it is. But I found it satisfying to do, and pleasing as a result.
Many nature, and particularly landscape photographers go into hibernation during the summer. We don't like the light, you see. But more recently I've begun to enjoy the lush greens and the busyness of nature, particularly in the early summer. In the last two years I've been out to catch up with the red deer, as they grow their enormous antlers at incredible speed. I've got a few nice pictures of them at this 'velvet' stage of the year, but I think this one is my favourite. The colours are muted, and the textures likewise. I sometimes like a portrait that tells its story without eye-contact.
In my opinion, the best wildlife encounter in the UK is available during the summer months, when half a million Atlantic Puffins come ashore to raise their chicks. I'd also have puffin colonies up there as my favourite destination for British wildlife photography too. I haven't had a chance to visit in the last few years, but I hope to return one day. Puffins make great company for sunrise or sunset, however exhausting those times are during high summer.
Another midsummer adventure I've enjoyed was back in Finland, where I was photographing brown bears, in June 2015. Within the vast Finnish Taiga forest, there are many areas of grassy marshland, which flower in June to create this 'cotton-grass' effect, creating the perfect surroundings to photograph bears.
By the end of the summer, I'm thoroughly sick of the heat, the trees and grass are a pale imitation of their springtime hue, and I've been to enough BBQs to tide me over until next year. I'm just not a shorts and flip-flops guy. I miss wearing my boots. My lovely brown boots.
As soon as temperatures will allow, I'm back in my boots, and feeling more like myself again. I reckon autumn is my favourite season. It's my busiest season, photographically, and I'm always ready by the time it comes around.
The sights, smells, and feel of autumn are what make it the most rich, vibrant, and cosy season. When cold, damp nights, transition to warmer sun-lit mornings, we get mist and fog, adding an extra layer of atmosphere to everything. A good day for me, would be walking around an autumn woodland, brushing my boots through a kaleidoscope of fallen leaves, damp undergrowth, and crackling twigs, getting home tired, and warming up with a thick hot chocolate.
This is a view from Loughrigg Fell, in the Lake District. It's a popular spot with photographers, which is often best at sunrise. But this is the hillside at sunset, which I think reflects the classic colours of the season.
Returning to the leaf project, this is the autumn collage. Again, I'm not sure what the end goal is for this, but I like them all arranged and categorised like this.
Four roughly equal seasons are normal to me, but of course it's not like that all over the world. Further north, spring and autumn get more and more compressed; dominated by the extremes of the cold, dark winter and bright, mild summer. I think I'd be OK with that, though I'm sure those long winters drag. And I'd struggle with the constant sunlight in the summers. In the tropics; the central band around the earth, the climate is warm all year round, and only two seasons are in effect; the wet season and the dry season. You hear those terms often enough, but I find it hard to imagine what it must be like living in those environments. For me, the regularity of the changing seasons keeps me in touch with the real world - outside home life, work life, the internet, etc. The constant march of nature's progression, appears to be an instinctive annual body clock. And the pacing is perfect; by the time each season comes around, I'm ready for it, because it's been just the right amount of time since we last experienced it.