I live in the northwest corner of Montana in the Flathead Valley. Our house is about 75 miles from the Canadian border. Our valley in the wintertime can get kind of dreary. Weather conditions can cause the valley to get covered in clouds and we won’t see the sun for weeks. It’s called an inversion and if you can get up in the mountains, the sun will be bright and you’ll look down into the valley and just see clouds. This is great for skiing but if you’re in the valley, it can get a little bleak. Last weekend, in the midst of an inversion, I was thinking about writing a post about color. I looked outside and all I saw was grey, dull colors. What to do? I took the dogs for a walk and started seeing lots of interesting shapes, line and value changes. Many times, when there is a lot of color, you get overwhelmed by the color and that’s all you might see. But since there wasn’t any color, I could really see value changes in the scenery. Value, is dark and light. So one end of the value scale is black and the other is white with a variety of grays in between. I wrote a post about using a value scale here.
So I went back to the house to get my camera. This shot is from the front of my house.
Because of the freezing fog, ice crystals form on branches and just about everything. This doesn’t happen all the time so it was fun to get some shots of all the ice crystals.
These are the aspen trees covered in ice crystals.
But then I saw the Ponderosa pine needles and I was entranced.
And the close up shots were amazing. They looked like fireworks.
And even the ice under my feet was looking lacy.
Then I turned a new eye on the landscape. Many times, when you’re trying to work out what values to use, you are told to squint your eyes and see if you can pick out the darker areas in a landscape. Or if you have a photo, then put it into a photo editing program and turn it into black and white. With these photos, I could immediately pick out the dark and light values. Can you?
So why go on and on about value? I think it is one of the most important parts of a composition. If all of your colors are the same value, you end up with limited contrast and the composition isn’t as interesting as it could be. You need to have dark, medium and light values so there is contrast in your composition and your eye will be led from area to area in your composition.
So even in the winter, when it’s dull and dreary, if you look close enough, you can find some inspiration. What’s been inspiring you this winter (or summer if you’re on the other side of the world)?