Are you lacking photographic inspiration at the moment, wondering what to do in the summer doldrums? For me, August equals dull- the thill of the spring and early summer is over and the joy of fall colors is still a couple months away. What is a photographer to do? Let me help.
1. Go to the coast, any coast, east, west or south. There is always something to photograph where the sand and rocks meet the water. I think the best time is the hour before dawn and the hour after sunset but there is always something to shoot. Cloud reflections, curling waves, tide pools, shells, surfers, beach walkers, hot dog venders, arcades, sunsets, sunrises, flying gulls and on and on and on. Take the family and pretend that you really want along and then sneak out extra early and get your shooting in before anyone is even awake!
2. Head for the prairies. For all the Midwesterners who don’t live near a coast you’ll be happy to know that your prairies are in full bloom in August. Every midwest state has natural areas that have expanses of prairies so they aren’t hard to find. Many of these prairies now have reintroduced bison on them so not only can you photograph the tall blossoms of coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, lupine and loosestrife, you can now play with bison as well. Check your state’s Nature Conservancy preserves to see which ones have bison herds.
3. Notice the roadsides. Anywhere east of the Mississippi August is the time when roadsides or abandoned fields have great flowers that we regularly overlook. You won’t get any beautiful landscapes but you will be able to find plenty of subjects for flower portraits.
4. Crawl through meadows. That’s right, crawl through meadows. August is the time when meadow insects like grasshoppers and daddy long-legs, bunches of spiders and dozens of butterflies and moths are hard at work in meadows. Pick a morning that is cooler than normal and you’ll get a good dew. This not only bejewels the insects in tiny diamond-like droplets but the cool temperatures slows the insects down making them more cooperative subjects.
5. Go north! The farther north you go the further back in the season you go. August is prime time for anywhere in Alaska (that is not burning), Glacier National Park (currently burning), the north shore of Lake Superior (not burning) and Washington State’s North Cascades (burning a bit). At least you’ll get great sunsets and sunrises with all the smoke in the air! If you go really far north into Canada all the parks of the Canadian Rockies are also great now. They are also full of people but not early or late in the day and not off the roads.
6. Get High! This is easiest to do in Colorado (yuk, yuk) but you can also get high in almost any western state and in some eastern states as well. High elevation is the same as high latitude so gaining elevation also pushes back the season. If you don’t want to hike high there are other easier ways to get high (too easy). There are many roads that travel to above tree line in Colorado- the Mt. Evans road and Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mt. National Park. There are mountain goats high on Mt. Evans (again, too easy) and elk high along Trail Ridge road. In the east you can drive to the top of Whiteface Mt. in the Adirondacks, Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, Mt. Mansfield in Vermont and Mt. Mitchell in the Smokies. Another easy way to gain altitude for photographers lugging gear is to ride up a ski lift at a ski area. Many ski areas open a lift or two in the summer and this is a great way to get to the top of a mountain while sitting on your butt.
7. Go across the Pond! No not to Europe, August is a very crowded time to be anywhere in Europe, go to Africa. I know it has all been done a thousand time before but August into September is the best time to see the huge herds migrating north in the Serengeti. Not so easy to do on an impromptu basis but just in case you are interested, now you know.
8. Fly south to winter! South of the Equator it is winter right now so if you are stinking hot and can’t take it anymore head for the south island of New Zealand, the Andes of Peru or Chile or the Snowy Range in Australia. No planning necessary, just grab a flight, grab a car, grab a guide and off you go! New Zealand is the most fun- no such thing as a sad Kiwi!