It was an amazing day here yesterday. For the first time in months, it felt like spring and summer might actually reappear within our lifetime. The birds were back twittering (or do they tweet now too?), the snow was giving way to grass (remember grass?) and the chill was out of the air.
Not to be too much of a pessimist, but this was just temporary. It's going to rain like crazy today and then get too cold again for March. But, hey, yesterday showed that spring is not totally off the agenda for this year. I'm holding my hopes up.
What does this have to do with photography, one asks. Everything. With spring comes color, life and temperatures that make holding a metal object not the excruciating ordeal it has been for many weeks now.
I've admitted it here before, I'm a fair-weather photographer. Too cold, and my gear and I stay in.
That's why I sometimes miss living in Cyprus, where we spent three years from 2006 to 2009. It got ridiculously hot in the summer, but you could basically shoot year-round on that Mediterranean island without freezing off any body parts. I looked for some samples of 'winter' shots the other day.
Cyprus in the Winter
We moved from Cyprus to Vienna, Austria, in early November. In the morning I took a dip in the Mediterranean. In the early evening, we unloaded the taxi in a cold drizzle in Vienna. Wow, that was harsh.
It was then that I realized how where you live can determine much of your shooting habits and your gear needs. I guess I'm stating the obvious here, but seriously, I had never given it that much thought.
With winter setting in in Austria, my shooting rate dropped from thousands of frames a year to a few hundred. I also noticed that I'm weird when it comes to shooting beautiful places. I had zero inclination to take touristy pictures of all the gorgeous imperial buildings in Vienna.
Years before, I experienced the same thing when I lived in Switzerland, where despite the awesome Alpine landscapes, I was somehow put off by the Swiss neatness of it all and hardly ever took out my camera on my numerous romps through the mountain passes in my Alfa Romeo. Maybe I was just too busy zooming around those hairpin curves.
Austria in the Winter
(yes, I did sometimes go outside)
I know that if I lived in the American West, I would collect the gear I need for landscapes and would endlessly drive around in search of vistas worthy of images. I'd shoot like crazy. I love New Mexico and the wide open spaces of America's West, where roughness, not Swiss cuteness, dominates the landscape.
Here in suburban New York, I miss openness. I like trees, you know, but not too many of them in one place. They block my view. Sorry, but I'm from Holland, with wide open skies that made painters drool and me struggle against the harsh wind on my bike. I like a view.
So, here, I can't do much with a long zoom. I don't really need polarizers, which were constantly on my lenses in Cyprus. I need good gear for city shooting. I need something that's not too heavy to carry on a plane, so I can fly west.
And as far as gear goes, maybe I should just rent most of my stuff for the warmer months. A lot of my lenses are hibernating in the closet and will reemerge from their winter doldrums when the expected cold spell is once again behind us and their owner happily ventures outside.
By John van Rosendaal