(what to look for and how to get it to work for you)
People no matter the time of year or location will always make a photo 10x better than if you were to take the picture without. To build a great image with a person you need three things: The subject typically in the rule of thirds, and your background which should be just as representative as your subject. Find times like golden hour to get the best shot. Setting up the person in a natural yet interesting pose is also key. I like to make them smile and laugh in most cases to show their real personality.
Since the prairies are typically barren, the buildings or places that stand prominently from the ground catch your attention. It is your job to find an interesting angle and permission to enter (check out this blog post here on how to do that). I tend to lean towards the old and discarded places no one is willing to invest into any more because of their character. They can be old grain elevators which used to be so prominent 50 years ago to old homesteads and equipment. The history attached to these are incredible and if you can find the owners you will be amazed by what it means to them and the story they share. Coming from this area has always given me a sense of pride because of the sheer strength our ancestors displayed creating the lifestyle we know cherish today. The old buildings and equipment and images prove that.
The prairies are full of off-the-beaten-path items that you can't find literally anywhere else. People's ingenuity to repurpose unused or even 'useless' objects can make for an amazing image. A family friend of mine has a beautiful century old barn out in the Special Areas where their family is from. We were able to do a full day of shooting with the use of 1. People 2. Places and 3. Things. For this shot below specifically, I found their use of old cow skulls as a sort of decoration for fence posts intriguing. Objects like these aren't as hard to find as you think as long as you keep your eyes peeled for literally anything out of the ordinary. Living here my entire life has allowed me to see the beauty in the simple landscape that stretches towards the east. As anyone knows, when you get out the city there is less light and noise pollution, allowing you to really focus your attention on the little things as they are all that is out here. I've taken photos of cow skulls, rocks, different grasses, bales, barbwire, discarded items like rubber boots, etc. There is an unlimited amount of opportunity to be found!
Summer versus Winter
One thing I always find myself comparing is the seasons as they roll by. There are four very distinct seasons here in East Central Alberta including Spring, Summer, Harvest and Winter. I say Harvest because fall just doesn't cut it. When it comes to landscapes, a sunset or sunrise will always be supreme in any time of year.
Here are some themes to keep in mind as the seasons unfold:
Spring: The spring is known new life, warmer temperatures and unthawing. In Alberta, remember the distinct flowers that begin to emerge. My personal favourites are crocuses, a light purple flower native to the area, and buffalo beans, a bold yellow flower hard to miss amongst the still dull grasses. Both are great for engagement as people associate themselves with these flowers as a favourite when you know the season is finally changing to something other than -20 degree temps. For this, take closeups of the flowers and landscape shots with or without people in them to make for some great and interesting images people will love.
Summer: Where to begin... Summer is the ultimate time of year for getting solid greens and other colours on the spectrum. Summer is where you can be moody and different or light and sweet depending on what you are shooting. This is the time you should be taking as many photos in the warmth as you can.
Harvest: Like I said before, fall just doesn't cut it for a number of reasons. Harvest is the time of year when crops turn gold and sunsets start to sink lower. Combines and grain carts and b-trains are full steam ahead as they race to finish before the first snowflakes hit the ground. Although no farmer wants to see frost, it can make for some beautiful morning pictures.
Winter: This can be the most challenging time of year for its lack of contrast and pure white display. Not to worry, always try your best to get outside when it is a relatively nice day and you will never leave disappointed; particularly when the snow is only covering parts of the countryside. Again, it all leads to contrast as your main focus to keep the eye entertained. Adding in an interesting focal point is great too like animals or buildings or people to tie it all together.
Well I hope this helped you on your journey...
To discovering beautiful things in any time of year. Take advantage of every opportunity you get as they can turn out to be some of your best shots.