Winter Nights

032_YosemiteWinterCabinIn one half of the world, winter is once again upon us. Some would swear that it has already arrived, and a good time to stay indoors warming ourselves by a fire.

But it is also a great opportunity to not only go out and experience the cold winter weather, but also a chance to capture our experience of the cold, crisp light we see after the sun goes down.

Cold winter nights seem quieter and more peaceful. We are more likely to find ourselves alone than during the warmer seasons. It is a time to roam freely and seek out the more still and thought-provoking scenes in our hunt for the great diversity of light.

Freezing temperatures at night create an interesting mix of sensations to portray in our images. The air feels soft, but light looks stark. The weather feels chilly to the skin, but can be heart warming. Trees are alive, but bare, taking on a more dramatic form. Everything seems more acute to the eye, and to the camera, in the frigid night air.

Winter nights show us a different way to see the world, and a different way to capture our experience of the world through image making. It gives us a chance to create images that convey a sense of quiet impact, a personal interpretation of the night.

IMAGE : Winter Cabin, Yosemite, CA

For over 24 years I spent a lot of time in Yosemite, especially in the winter time. It is the season of less people and more spectacular weather conditions. When I started doing night photography, I spent many cold winter nights capturing the park’s wonders in a different light than the norm.

I came across this scene one winter night after I drove into the park and was walking to the lobby of Yosemite Lodge to check in for the weekend. The back lighting, combined with the slightly smoke filled air catching the light from the front of the cabin, was very dramatic.

This particular cabin, similar to the one I usually stayed in, was washed out in a flood in the late 1990’s. It was never rebuilt.

Much like the pioneer cabin taken at Wawona in Yosemite, this cabin has the look and feel of someone at home, all warm and cozy within, as the nighttime freezes without. The lack of shadow detail in the cabin beckons us to solve the mystery of what lies inside.

This image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 15 second exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySelenium

In the darkroom Selenium toning creates a cool purplish hue in the darker tones and strengthens the tonal separation in the subtle highlights. The toning was selected for this black and white image to enhance the look of the brisk winter night.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile derived from the “GallerySelenium” Color Map created in Mac App SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Winter Nights

We all know how a cold winter night feels. Next time you photograph at night during the coldest season of the year, take the time to compose an image that captures both the look and the feel of your experience of the cold winter night.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Winter Nights

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Snowfall”


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4 thoughts on “Winter Nights

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thanks, I do too. I think the image reflects the same impact I experienced when I first a saw the cabin. I did take longer exposures to get the shadow details on the sides of the cabin, but those shots were not nearly as dramatic. I once believed the conventional wisdom that there should always be shadow details, but it turns out that solid black areas in nighttime images is perfectly reasonable, and sometimes even necessary to create the kind of mood or feeling we want to convey with our images.

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