Lizzie Shepherd: What images to use for your calendar
Posted: 26 Nov 2019
Lizzie Shepherd is a professional landscape photographer, speaker, teacher and writer, based in North Yorkshire, specialising in landscape, nature and travel photography. Lizzie sees the world around her as constantly evolving, and believes that one of the joys of photography is that it forces you to open your eyes, to develop your vision and to keep searching for ways to express that vision.
In this blog, we talk to Lizzie about what to photograph for each month of the year, and which of her images she would put for each month in her own calendar.
Many landscape photographers like to get out and about with their camera on a regular basis. Just how often you do that will depend on many things – practicalities, such as available time, is paramount to this. However, I believe we all have very different needs in terms of the optimum amount of time we spend photographing. Many seem to have never-ending creative energy, going out day after day. Others, like myself, find we do need the odd break here and there – although the reality is, it’s usually hard to spend as much time out with the camera as we might like.
Perhaps one of the biggest incentives to get out on a regular basis is so that we can truly appreciate the changing face of our landscape as the year progresses. Seasonal variety is something to celebrate and can give us focus when planning where and what to photograph.
What to photograph in January
New Year’s optimism or post-Christmas blues? Whilst our winters in the UK have typically been on the milder side in recent years. A quick look at my Lightroom catalogue shows me I’ve enjoyed at least a brief spell of snow here in Yorkshire, in all but one of the last five years. With such short days, it’s one of the easiest times in the year for a dawn shoot. This image, from the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, was from a day when, for the most part, the skies were a little too clear and blue – but first thing, the clear skies and reflected early light on the snow-covered landscape were sublime.
What to photograph in February
Depending upon where you live, snowdrops are in flower throughout much of February. You’ll find them on roadside verges, in parks, churchyards, gardens and in woodland. My favourite environment in which to photograph them is in natural woodland. Although these diminutive flowers lend themselves to simple portrait-style images. It’s also fun to try to show them in their wider environment. Here I used my 110mm macro lens at f/2.5, resisting the temptation to get too close to the flowers so I could also show a slight hint of their woodland surroundings. Possibly one of the biggest challenges is trying to find the optimum angle without risking any damage to the delicate flowers.
What to photograph in March
Amongst other things, March is a great time for photographing daffodils, wood anemone and hares! For me, however, it is the month when I try to go cross-country skiing in Scandinavia. This gives me another chance to enjoy snowy conditions and to immerse myself in beautifully quiet and unspoiled scenery. It’s also a brilliant part of the world for photographing birch trees, many of which are impossibly bendy, having been submerged under heavy mounds of snow each winter.
What to photograph in April
April is typically the month when our countryside starts to turn green again, and surely there’s no better shade of green than that of fresh and delicate young beech leaves? Here they really sing out against the muted tones of silvery grey trunks, on a foggy morning in my local wood.
What to photograph in May
The greens intensify and more flowers come into bloom – none more popular than the British bluebell. Our northern woodlands tend to be quite chaotic and, often, bluebells intermingle with a mass of fallen branches, ferns and grasses. Here, I’ve used a 40mm lens, wide open at f/1.2 to create a more impressionistic look, featuring just a few bluebells and some beautifully delicate grasses, to create a wash of colour and texture.
What to photograph in June
Although hawthorn blossom is also known as May blossom, here in the north of England, it’s still very much in flower come June. The flowers are wonderful to photograph with a macro lens, but given the character of the gnarly hawthorn trees that grow in the Yorkshire Dales, I love isolating the trees in their environment, often setting off the hawthorn against a backdrop of wildflower meadows.
What to photograph in July
The height of summer is often not as popular a time of year with landscape photographers. However, there’s no better time to photograph insect life - in particular, it’s a great time of year for dragonflies and damselflies. Ideally, you need to get up at the crack of dawn and catch them whilst they are still torpid, laden down with dew. They can be hard to spot in amongst the grasses, and of course, great care must be taken not to risk their welfare.
What to photograph in August
Moorlands up and down the country are covered in heather, and August is the time when the flowers should peak. I tend to prefer photographing heather very early or late in the day when there is no direct sunlight, but often a lovely luminous quality to the light. I find the combination of heather and birch particularly alluring and as the summer draws to an end, the greens of the birch leaves start to fade a little, giving rise to an appealing and muted combination of colours.
What to photograph in September
We tend to see the first signs of autumn in September. The days draw in, some trees start to turn and hawthorn and rowan become laden with berries. The last few years have been particularly good for rowan trees and in this image, the deep red tones of the berries really sing out against the faded greens of larch and bracken.
What to photograph in October
I suspect many photographers would name the birch amongst their favourite trees. Prolific and hardy, birches can spring up anywhere and everywhere. Here, at Hodge Close Quarry in the Lake District, they seemed to be reclaiming the land and I loved the way they were almost starting to overwhelm this old ruin. Typically, their leaf colour is at its best in October.
What to photograph in November
November has made a nasty habit of being rather dank and miserable the last few years. However, when the weather plays ball, we can hope for sharp frosts and misty mornings. No matter the weather, there is almost always a good display of colour to be found somewhere. Don’t forget to look at your feet – not just for the autumn leaves, but also for the wonderful hues present in our grasses. Here I was lucky to find some rich red grasses, half-covered in frost, on a cold and sunny morning up on the moors.
What to photograph in December
Our coastline is wonderful to photograph at any time of year, but we often get subjected to powerful storms in December. Wild seas demand respect and a long lens is definitely a requirement so you can keep a safe distance. This image was made during Storm Barbara a few years ago when I struggled to stand still and capture the power of the waves crashing onto the shore in the far north-west of Scotland.
Want to make a calendar of your own to fit in your images from across the year? Check out our how to blog here.
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