I've always preferred to shoot architectural landscapes in the warmer months of the year as opposed to Winter. The pictures just look better! So...what's better? I'm automatically drawn to images with contrast. By contrast, I'm talking about contrast in color (from black to white), contrast in light (from dark to light), as well as sharpness (contrast at edges). The following image, taken with an 8-15 fisheye lens, illustrates this. The photo shows a broad range of fairly saturated colors (no post processing was done). There is a vivid range of lightness from the white clouds to the nearly black areas underneath the bridge deck. There are lots of sharp edges represented by the geometry of the construction itself.
Generally, winter images are more of a challenge. Using the image below as an example, the range of saturated colors seems to be significantly lower. Moreover, the range of lightness is much narrower. There are still plenty of sharp edges. Although technically the photo documents what the client was looking for (I took it, of course!), the photo doesn't have much impact.
After ruminating it as well as doing some online research, I've come up with some rationale for why Spring/Summer/Fall photos look better.
1. Light coming from the sun is mostly effected by what's floating around in the sky. Surprisingly, the sky is clearer in the Winter than the Summer. I'm not talking about clouds. I'm talking about various particles floating around, mostly from the earth, and kicked around by the wind. The tiny particles reflect and deflect light in an infinite number of ways. As directional light hits objects on the ground (buildings, landscapes) it reflects back off of these man made and nature made materials in interesting ways creating contrast. In the Winter time, these particles are heavier or weighted down by the cold air and fall to Earth. In the Summer time, they are lighter, heated by the sun, and float.
2. The sun is farther away from the Earth in the Winter time. As a result, the overall quality of the light is softer (or less harsh). This lowers the contrast in light (from dark to light).
3. The length of days. Because Summer days are considerably longer than Winter days, the amount of time light is more directional (creating contrast) is extended. The "sweet spot" of this directional light is often called The Golden Hour.
As a native North Dakotan, I've often been told we have some of the best sunsets in the World. This is a combination of two relevant factors: the amount of dust in the air created by agricultural activity (e.g. grain dust) and the length of summer days owing to the northerly latitude.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. That's what makes photography so interesting. The two images below both work. The photo on the left was shot in May and the one on the right was taken in January. Both of them work for different reasons. Even though the contrast in the Winter photo is lower, within the context of scene and the time of the year.
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