How to take amazing pictures of the changing seasons at the cottage

Tips for seasonal photography

Canadian seasons are dramatic, with each offering distinct, gorgeous visuals. And if you’re a year-round cottager, your home away from home is the perfect subject for a multi-season photo album. Here are some great tips for creating an amazing collection of seasonal photographs.

Fall photography

When it comes to shooting outdoor scenes in most of Canada, there’s no better season than fall. As leaves change colour, forests light up in a rainbow of reds, yellows, and oranges that are incredibly inspiring.  As always, the best time to shoot is sunrise and sunset. Being set up 45 minutes before sunrise or sunset will lead to the best shots.

Fall colours generally peak in early October. If you’re too early, you won’t get the most colour for your buck, and if you’re too late, the bare trees will kill the overall effect in a scenic shot. One wind storm or one heavy rain will knock a lot of leaves off the trees, so when you notice the colours are peaking, you need to get out there. Don’t delay; it doesn’t last long.

If you miss the peak of the season, there are still plenty of opportunities in close-up shots. Leaves will cover the forest floor, drift down rivers, and float in ponds. Dewdrops on leaves make for endless subject matter. And if you feel like buying a bit of gear to improve your shots, a circular polarizing filter will really make those colours pop.

Winter photography

While many Canadians love to grumble about our long winters, the truth is that winter is a beautiful season that makes for great images. If you’re shooting landscapes, be sure to get out there right after a big snowfall. Simple scenes of bicycles or picnic tables covered in pristine snow make for great subject matter. Or try shooting during the storm itself, when fat flakes drift down from the sky.

Tobogganing, skiing, or building snowmen are also great winter subjects. Just make sure to get out there when there’s snow. You never know what tomorrow’s weather may bring, and you don’t want to miss the beauty of freshly fallen snow.

Spring photography

Some of the most inspiring spring images come from flowing water. Waterfalls are bursting with volume this time of year, and they’re easy to photograph. Take a tripod with you, set up your camera, and try slowing the shutter speed right down. This will give you those gorgeous waterfall images where the water resembles paint strokes on a canvas. The slower you can get your camera to go, the more impressive this image will be. Just be sure the sensor isn’t getting too much light and blowing out your entire image.

Sprouting flowers and plants are also a great subject this time of year. Fiddleheads, snowdrops, and trilliums all make for great close-up photography, as do kids heading outside to splash in puddles and embrace the warm weather. These are the kinds of memories you’ll want to capture.

Summer photography

It’s tough to nail down a classic summer subject because there are so many. In terms of landscapes, there are sunrises and sunsets, as well as lakes, bays, and beaches. Nature is bursting with life at this time of year, and a circular polarizing filter will help make the vibrant colours pop.

Summer also offers an endless array of amazing action-shot possibilities. Photos of your family riding bikes, swimming, barbecuing or playing outside will all create valuable additions to your collections of cottage memories.

Bringing it all together

The best way to bring the whole year together in an album is to try to get a common theme running through the seasons. Certain people or activities in each season will help the album flow seamlessly.

Another fun technique for a year-round collection is to try to take the exact same photo each season. If you have a special place you and your family enjoy, why not capture it in spring, summer, fall, and winter? With or without people in the shot, you’ll really get a sense of each season’s drama.

A tripod can add to the chances of getting the exact same shot, and a printed copy of the previous season’s photo will help you compose the same image each time you return.