You Only Need A Little

A lot of people and landscape photographers always get caught up on getting out to photograph after a huge snow dump. The reality is one does not really need huge winter storms that dump feet of snow in Rocky Mountain National Park to make compelling landscape images. This morning in Rocky saw about 6 inches of snow fall in the lower elevations of the park. It was just enough to make travel easy enough but keep the landscape and trees covered with snow and allowing for the appearance of a winter wonderland. 2 ft of snow might have meant that unplowed roads would be closed in Rocky or traveling even short distances from ones vehicle would require great effort. Technical Details: Nikon Z7, Nikkor 24-70mm F4 lens

I’m a big fan of landscape photographer Michael Frye. I’ve been reading his articles in Outside Photographer and blog for a long time now. Michael’s skill as a landscape photographer are second to none and his ability to teach and educate are also top notch. Much of what Michael states resonates with me and in many way our approaches and philosophy on photography seem very similar. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Michael in person, but from following along as a fan for a long time now, I’ve come to believe we have similarities.

When reading his blog a couple of weeks back he was discussing a recent outing to Yosemite National Park to get out and photograph one of the recent snow storms that had moved through the valley. Michael spends as much time photographing Yosemite as I do Rocky Mountain National Park so he has great insight into photographing locations over and over again in different conditions as I like to think I do.

Frye commented in his blog post that ‘Photographically, it’s not the amount of snow that matters. I’ve made most of my best Yosemite snow photographs with just a few inches of new snow on the ground. For me, other factors are more important, like having fresh snow still in the trees, and some mist to accompany that snow. It’s fun to see a big snow dump, but all that snow makes it difficult to get around, and it’s not necessarily more photogenic’

I’ve had this thought many times, and when I reading Michaels blog post thought to myself ‘at least I’m not the only one who thinks this way’. Sometimes I feel like a bit of an imposter when posting winter imagery from Rocky Mountain National Park because of the fact that big snowstorms are not required to make beautiful winter images of Rocky.

People are obsessed with how much snow there was and how hard was it to travel and get around. The truth is in landscape photography, 2 inches is just about as good as 20 inches of snow is. As long as it covers the trees and the landscape with fresh powder the weather conditions such as wind, clouds, fog and of course composition and light will all be more important in determining how impactful the landscape photograph is.

Secondly, snowshoeing in 2 feet of fresh snow is much harder than walking in 2 inches. Driving in 2 feet of fresh snow on unplowed roads is much harder than driving in 2 inches of fresh snow. The point being here that you don’t need to wait for big storms to hit a given location to make great images. You need weather, light, atmospherics and most importantly great timing and vision to make it all come together. When looking back on images 10 years from now you wont remember if the storm dropped 2 ft of snow or 2 inches, you will just remember how great the light and conditions were that day.