Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The challenges of winter photography & a new perspective on art January 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:15 AM
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FOR A BLOGGER like me who incorporates so many photos into her posts, blogging in winter in Minnesota presents special challenges, the primary obstacle being the weather.

Simply put, I don’t like freezing my fingers, navigating icy surfaces, dodging snowflakes or battling frigid winds to get a photo. And when you live in Minnesota, you just can’t escape the cold, ice, snow and wind, especially not this week.

Yesterday I glanced outside to see a fresh dusting of snow sparkling like fairy dust in an enchanting scene. For a moment, as I slipped half my body outside to retrieve the morning paper, I considered bundling up to photograph the magic. But thoughts did not transform into action.

Later, though, after lunch, that fairy dust still danced in my brain so I zipped my fleece and stepped onto the patio to photograph the snow. I didn’t expect fantastic results; heck, the results rated as immediately deletable:

The original sparkling snow image, unedited except for down-sizing.

The original sparkling snow image, unedited except for down-sizing.

But then I worked my magic, trying several editing tools—sparkle effect, colorizing, cartoonifying and changing the contrast—to transform a blah image into an abstract work of art:

Sparkling snow in my backyard transformed into abstract art with photo editing tools.

Sparkling snow in my backyard transformed into abstract art with photo editing tools.

What’s really interesting about this entire process is that I’ve never been a fan of abstract art. I’ve always been inclined to view an abstract work and then blurt, “I could do that” or “That looks like the work of a kindergartner.”

I doubt I’ll ever quite stop thinking that.

But, through this digital editing process, I’ve discovered a part of me appreciates abstract photo art and the process of creating it. Temporary brain freeze perhaps?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on cold climate photography (as in Minnesota cold), abstract art, digital photo editing or anything along that line? (And don’t feel you have to like my abstract photo art.)

I prefer to shoot winter photos from the comfort of a building or a vehicle, as evidenced in these images I shot in March 2012:

I converted this image to black-and-white and upped the brightness. This was shot on the Minnesota Highway 19 curve just north of Vesta, my southwestern Minnesota hometown.

I converted this image to black-and-white and upped the brightness. This was shot on the Minnesota Highway 19 curve just north of Vesta, my southwestern Minnesota hometown.

I used the same photo editing techniques on this scene captured on the same date just south of Echo, which would be north of Vesta. We were on our way to church.

I used the same photo editing techniques on this scene captured on the same date just south of Echo, which would be north of Vesta. We were on our way to church.

The day prior, en route to Vesta, I photographed this barn between New Ulm and Morgan.

The day prior, en route to Vesta, I photographed this farmyard between New Ulm and Morgan.

To the east, also en route to my hometown, I photographed this rural scene just west of Waterville along Minnesota Highway 60.

To the east, also en route to my hometown, I photographed this rural scene just west of Waterville along Minnesota Highway 60.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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18 Responses to “The challenges of winter photography & a new perspective on art”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Love the abstractness of the snow!!! That is amazing! I am so not a cold weather girl and have gotten soft in my old age so I prefer the inside of the car or the house to being out in it but when the hoarfrost is particularly beautiful on the trees I do venture out and click away. Nothing like that sparking shiny stuff that draws me in! Stay warm!

  2. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    I am not a fan of abstract art and expressionism (which basically has recognizable content but is expressed in less than realistic forms, colors, perspective etc.). But I have tried it and find it very difficult to achieve anything at all. So I no longer think “that I could do that.” But I think much of the very abstract art is so far from content that I have trouble seeing how it expresses anything or evokes a response in the viewer.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That’s pretty much my opinion, too. What I am beginning to appreciate, though, are the colors and shapes and how those please my eyes. Also, photo editing is just plain fun.

  3. Sara K. Says:

    Winter photography…I’ve been taking hockey photos inside arenas for the past six or so years on my Canon SLR with a zoom lens. Last Saturday night my daughter’s varsity team played outside. My zoom lens was very unhappy in the cold! I had one heck of a time focusing and I thought the photos were horrible. However, the girls thought the pictures were great because I captured some pretty funny faces they were making in the wind and cold. It looked like it was snowing in some of the photos because the ice shavings from their skates were being whipped around the rink by the wind. What an experience! (And the game went into overtime and then a shoot-out! Brrr) I’ll happily go back into the arenas for the rest of the season. Staying inside will keep our cameras happy!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Sara, you deserve a hardy Minnesota photographer award. Sounds like you got some great shots, despite the elements. I tried photographing at the one and only hockey game I’ve ever attended and the results were horrible. I don’t have a zoom lens, which you really need to shoot sports.

      The other problem with shooting in the cold is battery depletion. I went on an outdoor winter shoot once, when I first got my camera, and found myself with dead batteries in short order. Yes, I purchased more batteries.

      So…, are you shooting the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition?

  4. I’ve seen some beautiful photos of snow falling on people’s blogs this year. I tried to take a few snaps yesterday and I couldn’t get my snow to even show up in the pictures. I admire those who can do good winter photography, especially when the skies are overcast!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Falling snow, yeah, haven’t really tried that outdoors because I don’t want to get my camera wet. Through the window of a vehicle, yes.

  5. Love how you play around with your captures:) Have a Great One & Stay Warm!

  6. Jackie Says:

    I love taking my camera out in the winter….as you know I’m a cold-weather kind of girl. Every winter I usually head out to our local outdoor zoo and have an afternoon with the animals, they all appreciate a visitor as there are not many as crazy as I. This year I am still waiting for some snow before I go out, not sure if that’s ever gonna happen. I also like to hike in the winter and as always I take several road trips in the country to see what kind of winter beauty I can capture. I have to be very careful, in the past I have managed to crack my LCD screen twice on my sony. Luckily I have the insurance that covers it….whew! Your photos are lovely as always Audrey!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Jackie, I just knew I would get this type of enthusiastic endorsement of winter from you. If only I owned an ounce of your love for winter. When I was a kid, I loved winter. But sometime through the years, that started ebbing.

      Can’t wait to see your zoo animal pix.

  7. treadlemusic Says:

    There have been many gorgeous winter photos on the blogs this season but the only ones on mine were from inside my livingroom window looking out! I’m with ya on that idea of liking this season less as time goes by………

  8. Carstens Says:

    Great shots! I love black and white photography. You really caught the essence of winter – a season I still love despite the fact I move more slowly with each icy year.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Carstens. I’ve grown to appreciate black-and-white photography more and more. There’s just something about the starkness and simplicity of b & w that appeals to me. As you can tell, I edited the first two b & w images to emphasize the whiteness of the landscape, although the cars rounding the curve didn’t need much editing. It was pretty much white-out conditions on that spot in the highway.


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