The last part of this series on backgrounds is all about utilizing the current time of year to maximize your images. For this, I will share more examples of ways to utilize your seasonal background, starting with everyone's favorite time of year: spring.
With warmer temperatures and new growth, spring is an incredible time of year to photograph. Not only are many birds migrating through central and northern parts of the country, colors in these areas are popping and background can be really interesting. Leaves are just starting to show, so photographing between March and May can mean a little less of the full green trees. However, buds and flowers are going to offer vibrance that you may not get at any other time of the year.
I have included some of my favorite spring backgrounds from the last couple of years below.
Summer has me thinking of a few colors. The first color that comes to mind is green. For most of the country, leaves are filling up the forests. Greens will dominate your backgrounds and you will often have nice solid canvases for your birds. The problem with leaves is they also create shadows. For this reason, I often like shooting on overcast days. This will mean some tweaks to settings (higher ISO and slower shutter and hopefully you have a large aperture lens available), but the results can be very pleasing.
The other colors that come to mind are the colors of the beach: soft blues and light beiges that are offered by sandy shores. While the entire country may not have access to shores of the ocean or lakes, many along the coasts have an opportunity to include shorelines in their compositions. Since many of these photographs will incorporate shorebirds, be sure to think about perspective and how to include these colors in your overall image. Remember, changing perspectives will allow you to include different elements in your background. Getting low with shorebirds will often introduce water and sky. Adding these to your photos will incorporate the blues of the beaches instead of just the sand and ground colors.
Fall brings change and these changes can create amazing opportunity. With leaves changing, your subjects now have oranges, yellows and reds behind them, mixed with the remaining greens of summer. Photographers and outdoor enthusiast relish this time of year. Even without wildlife present, the views can be stunning in the northern half of the country. When photographing at this time of year, I take into consideration available species and fall migration. Raptor have many flyways in the U.S. If you are lucky enough to be on these flyways, you can find spots to include birds in flight with dramatic backgrounds. Songbirds also migrate, so instead of featuring them in the woods, I will often try to get them along the edges of wooded areas, where I might get more color involved. A lot of my fall photography is done in the mountains of PA, where the elevation opens up your views and brings in lots of color. A note about photography at a hawk watch (which is my primary destination). When you are located at a hawk watch, you will have to enjoy the entire process. It will not always make for close views to photograph, so it helps if you enjoy the process of finding and identifying remote birds, with the hope of getting some nice close photos. Some hawk watches tend to offer better looks than others, so if you are planning on shooting migrating raptors in fall, do your homework and talk to the experts. They can help you find out when and where you may have the best odds for good pictures, with wind and temperature also being key factors.
A final autumn target can also be early arriving waterfowl. Colorful trees will reflect in the water and can create dramatic scenes.
Winter is sometimes thought of as the dead season. Colors are largely gone but this doesn't mean you can’t maximize what is available. Your location and conditions are going to largely dictate what your background will look like. Browns can be used to add mood and a feeling of texture. Dead grasses will often glow in the light, especially during golden hour. Snow can add lot of interest to a photo, with a plain white background that might make an image simple and artistic. Evergreens are called ever-green for a reason, so finding conifers may also allow for the inclusion of color.