It Ain’t Easy Being Green

The dog days of summer. That period where the sea of green here in Northern Minnesota is showing the very faintest signs of changing to it’s fall splendor. The days are still hot and humid. Mosquitoes are still in feast mode. I’m sick of seeing green every where I look.

I’m reminded more each year that I really don’t care to hike around the tick infested woods. Feeding the endless supply of bugs like some camera wielding, walking buffet during the summer. Trying to find a beautiful composition amidst the wall of green that slams me in the face feels nearly impossible.

But try I must

I try not to  blame the conditions for my lack of ability to find and create a photograph that I’m happy with. However, every summer I find my will to shoot landscapes in those conditions is waning further each year. I spend a fair amount of time creating images in other styles or genres, exploring small towns, family time with the kids, or just playing with experimental ideas.

Even though I’ll find ways to avoid that sea of green, the challenge eventually calls me and late summer will find me tromping around trying to find a way to make an interesting image. I know I’m not alone in this. I know a lot of photographers that say they really hate dealing with the over-abundance of green that is present during the peak summer months. Especially up here in my neck of the woods where the forests are so dense that it’s literally a WALL of green leaves in which visibility is all of about a foot in front of you.

Things to look for

Typically I have found two strategies work best for me in the green monster days of summer. At least, these are the two I’ve found to work for me so far. I’m always working to add to this list, but next year is a new learning cycle.

  1. Watch for interesting light. Even in the brightest mid-day sun, the density of leaves on the trees can allow for some very interesting dappled light to spill down to the forest floor. I like to think of these little pockets of light as natural spotlights, much like using off camera lighting with snoots and grids to create small patches of light that dance through the scene. Especially fun if it’s a windy day and those pockets of light are constantly shifting.
  2. If you can’t find a way to shoot a wider scene or that epic vista just isn’t working, try to get under or inside the canopy. Be getting low to the ground, stepping closer, taking time to see how the leaves form layers, you’ll be able to narrow your vision to a different perspective.

Hey David, how about you quit talking and show us the damn photos already?!

Ok, ok, fair enough! The thing is, I wish I could say these two tips allowed me to finally unlock a passion for creating landscape photographs in these dense Summer months.

It didn’t.

What it DID do was help me to push myself to create something in conditions I find less than ideal. I push myself to find images in these situations because I want to grow. By working harder to come away with images I’m proud of when outside my comfort zone I’m able to bring those lessons back to my toolbox forever. It expands my comfort zone and makes all of my work better because I’m learning lessons that apply to everything I create.

If there is one thing that drives me crazy it’s when we as photographers will blame the conditions for bad photos. Even worse when they blame the situation for making them put the camera away and not creating a single frame.

If you don’t want to shoot landscapes in the absurdly thick summer forest, go shoot something else. Be happy. But don’t waste time going out and then not working hard to make the best photos that you can. Going out and coming back empty handed happens only because you couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort. Just be honest with yourself.

Remember, we are supposed to enjoy creating and if you don’t feel the desire to photograph a certain subject, that is PERFECTLY NORMAL AND FINE!

BUT- If you choose to attempt it, own it. You may fail spectacularly but don’t blame nature, the weather, the light, or the color.

Especially the color green because as Kermit says… it ain’t easy being green.



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