Landscape photography in spring: Many shades of green

The end of winter and the beginning of spring is always a special time. Nature awakes. It’s a great time for photographers too. After a long time where we see mostly brown and grey in the landscape, there is an explosion of green and yellow. However, you have to act fast to capture the many shades of green.

The beginning of spring is not the same every year. Sometimes it happens earlier but in some years when it’s cold and there is still snow spring comes late. Usually, you see the first plants already in February on the Northern Hemisphere: Snowdrop plants and later on cowslips appear even there is still snow. The Yellow forsythia is a herald of spring. But it’s still a long way. However often in April, everything happens very fast. Meadows become green and yellow again. In some areas, the Meadows turn into an intense yellow when the dandelion is blooming.

The motives are easy to capture. You don’t need expensive gear. However, it is great if you have a camera which shoots in raw mode. There are much more opportunities to play around with the shades of green later in post-production.

The different phases of the spring season

The most interesting part happens when the trees are sprouting. Only for a short time, we see what is called the “fresh green” in nature. It’s the time and weeks after spring awakening. Later in May, we see mostly a darker green in gardens and forests. The foliage doesn’t show so many different shades of green then. Thus, landscape photographers have to be quick and be ready when the right moment comes.

Cowlips are among the plants which appear early in spring.
Fruit tree blossom in April. The most trees are still without leaves.
The nights are still cold. It looks like spring is still far away but within days there will be graduated shades of radiant yeallow and green. Spring awakening is already in full progress.

In the Northern Hemisphere the growing season begins in the South as Italy or Greece and arrives later in Northern countries. Farmers know a lot about the dynamics in nature and there are scientific parameters too. The most important parameter is the grassland temperature sum (GTM). The sum is based on an equation. If the sum is 200 Celsius the farm work begins.

If you want to learn about the beginning of the growing season check with your local weather services website. There is often information about the progress of spring there. If you are used to read weather data there are also specialized weather websites for farmers etc, for example https://www.agweb.com/weather in the US.

Weather, of course, plays a crucial role. You will see fast changes in nature after a period of rain in the spring. These are often the best moments to shoot pictures.

Sunlight is good to capture the many shades of green in Spring. However, a rainy day can be very interesting too since there are a lot of different moods. Morning time and the time before sunset is often the best time for shooting pictures of blooming trees.

The graduated shades of radiant green

Pictures of fresh green mostly don’t need a lot of post-production. However, some filters and development can help to create stronger differences between the shades of green.

End of April: Often the best time to capture the graduated shades of green. Use the luminance panel in photoshop or lightroom to add details to the many shades of green. Be careful with saturation because the colours are already very strong.
Colors of foliage change very quickly in spring. The “fresh green” lasts only for a short ime.

One week later there is a different shade of green
It’t the first days when trees are spouting you see these radiant colors.
Birch trees have very distinct colors.
A rainy day can very interesting for landscape photography
First Week Of May: Colors are darker now. It still looks great but its already a completely different mood.

Where to shoot

It’s good to know where you can find the “many shades of green” in Spring. The best thing is to have a plan where to go long before the season begins. Generally, you might want to look for a forest with a huge variety of trees, a mixed forest. If you don’t have nature reserves or these type of forest around you can do also great pictures in landscape gardens, English-style. Mountain forests with many fir trees can also be interesting but there is, of course, less variety of colours there. Look also for meadows which are very natural and where there is a variety of flowers and plants. The pictures above were taken in Germany, Upper Bavaria between the river Lech and the lake Ammersee.

Peter Engelmann, May 8, 2020

https://stormypictures.de/peter-engelmann/

Magnificient Skies And Brilliant Colors Like Never Before

April 6, 2020

The Corona crisis is an unparalleled situation and there is no bright side to this. It would have been wonderful if we could have made observations about changes in the atmosphere, weather and perhaps climate change under different circumstances. Nevertheless, it appears there is a unique chance for a potentially positive change in the future. For some days we see for the time how a sky would look like with little or no pollution in the air.

When the crisis reached Europe and the rest of the world air traffic declined. In Germany, there was a lockdown after middle of march. There are fewer planes operating. We now see an immediate effect: In Middle Europe, there was a high-pressure weather pattern in March and is still lasting in April. The air became clear and cold with some dust in the morning. However, there was a new quality in the atmosphere.

Over the last years there was a lot of pollution in the atmosphere due to increasing air traffic. The contrails never disappeared. The sky always looked dirty. It looked liked as the atmosphere couldn’t take any more. It was too much pollution. The result was often a strange sky with unusual clouds which presumably inspired the “Chemtrail Conspiracy theory”.

Now we have a chance to see how a sky without pollution and air-plane traffic looks like. It is not only like looking through a window which was cleaned up after a long time. We see different colors. There is some otherworldliness too it. It is like entering a different realm, a world remembered from childhood days for the elder generation.

The absence of pollution and air traffic doesn’t only mean clear skies and great colors. It looks like a healthier world and might have also effects for weather and climate. Hopefully there is a chance for scientists to do research even the circumstances appear difficult.

Air traffic created an artificial cloud layer on many days. Thus, there was less cooling in the night. The pollution added to global warming. We will see how weather patterns develop if there is little or now pollution in the upper atmosphere.

There is another interesting question: We don’t know very much about cloud development and how the increased air traffic has changed the development of clouds as rain clouds. Over the last years climate change led to many droughts. Scientists say this is mostly because of the CO2 emission but perhaps there are other factors. If we see more clouds now like we had a long time ago it could mean that air traffic had a much bigger impact than previously assumed.

Sky In Upper Bavaria before “Shutdown” with residue of airplane exhaust
Another Image with airplane residue near Mitenwald

Sky after lockdown end of March after shower
Sunset April 1, 2020
The next day.
April 5, 2020, Sunday Afternoon

Wild Tyrolean Valley After Severe Winter


Musau, Austria, May 19, 2019

In April 2019 there were many fears in Central Europe that 2019 would repeat its extreme weather patterns with a drought in many parts of Germany. Luckily, in May 2019 weather turned back to normal patterns with rain and colder temperatures. Unlike other areas, there had been a lot of precipitation in the Alps during winter 2018/2019. In some places, there were tons of snow. Devastating avalanches threatened some alpine valleys. There had also been some storms which did severe damage in the mountain forest.

A trip into the Alps in May is a fascinating thing. Particularly after a period with the above-mentioned weather extremes. In the higher regions, a hike can begin in “summer” with green meadows and warm temperatures but winter isn’t very far. It is also a chance to see the power of nature. It is the time of devastating thaws when the huge mass of snow melts quickly. And there are many traces of this last winter: Nature is recovering from avalanches and in the mountain forest we see the destructive force of severe storms.

Spring happens late in the mountains. It is a short time span when life returns to the frozen world. It is time to experience both the destructive power of the elements and its incredible beauty.

The Rein valley near Musau in Tyrol offers it all. It is perfect for a trip and is easily accessible. It is one of the most impressive valleys in the Northern Alps. Steep Rock faces, a raging river, a very natural forest and high peaks of the “Allgäuer Berge” makes it an unparalleled experience.

In Musau there is both a train station but also a parking spot, “Bärenfalle” at the beginning of the hike. The first half hour of the walk is in the forest and a steep ascent. After a while, the trail reaches the first vantage points. The peaks of the mountains become visible.

Sunday, May 19, started as a sunny and slightly cloudy day. However, there was a severe weather warning in place. It was said that thunderstorms would already occur before noon. The good weather lasted longer as expected.

Majestic Mountains in the background.
Mountain Forest In The Rein Valley

The trail is also a forest road which connects the village with the Musauer Alm and the Cabins, the Otto Mayr Hütte and the Füssener Hütte.

Road In The Rein Valley
Spring Flowers

After approximately one and a half hour of walking the cosy Musauer Alm comes into sight. It is the perfect opportunity for a stop and getting some good food in a very friendly atmosphere. After the stop which was in the middle of the day, the weather still looked fine. It seemed that the weather forecast wasn’t right. But in the mountains, you need to be very attentive and conditions can change very quickly.

Musauer Alm

Behind the Musauer Alm, the trail leads higher up into the valley. Here the image changed completely. Instead of the romantic green valley, it looked more and more like a battlefield of the forces of nature. Overturned trees, the remains of an avalanche and huge fields of snow left a deep impression. One could see what the severe winter in the alps did. In some places, it changed the face of the landscape.

After the severe winter
Avalanche
There is still a lot of snow.

Then it happened. It wasn’t too long and early afternoon when the weather changed completely. Rain and thunderstorm clouds appeared quickly from the east. It was time to turn around and head back down into the valley.

Arrival Of A Thunderstorm In The Mountains.

Faster than expected the sun appeared again after a heavy rain shower and some thunder in the clouds. It was then when there was a special magic in the landscape.

Winter And Summer At The Same Time

It was also an opportunity to study the work of erosion near the river. Rain and tough conditions led to mudslides and other destruction.

Massive Destruction

Erosion near the “Saba Bach”

Later in the afternoon, the sky was overcast. After the rain mist ascended from the forest. It was a completely different, more mystical air. It proved again that rainy weather is often the most interesting weather condition for dramatic pictures in the mountains.

Rain Clouds and The Green Trees

The wet weather attracted also a special animal, which is rare to see. The black salamander.

Salamander

The spectacular valley and the Musauer Alm is not far from the famous town of Füssen (with the prominent Neuschwanstein castle). On the Austrian side, Reutte and the “Lechtal-Region isn’t far. The Lechtal with the river Lech is one of Europe’s last river wilderness regions. It contains different types of forest, rich animal life and more spectacular mountain sceneries.

In some places, there was indeed severe weather on May 19. In East-Germany flooding was reported and there were heavy thunderstorms. It was also the beginning of a long rainy period with some flooding in Southern Germany. This is not unusual for May. In 1999 and 2005 there were floods which led to a lot of destruction. The events of 1999 gave reason to improve precautions against flooding for example in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Upper Bavaria.

A Waterfall In The Sky: Thunderstorms In May And Fallstripes

May is often a time in the year of short-lived thunderstorms and some cooler rainy days in Middle Europe. However, since some years there is also more severe weather with flash floods and even tornados in May. 2018 had been particularly unusual with new temperature records in April. It was too dry in many areas and it still is. A big problem is that it seems that steady rain is missing more and more. Long lasting rain was a common weather pattern every year which wasn’t very amusing for tourists but important for nature and farming. That changed. As predicted by climate change researchers we have more showers and thunderstorm with extreme flooding now.

When I was younger I remember May not as a very warm month. In some years there was still a lot of snow in the mountains. Often it was very cold in the middle of the month. But this year it was more like midsummer rather than spring.

In Southern Germany, the dry period ended to a certain extent and more and more showers and thunderstorms happened.

The first thunderstorm in my area close to lake Ammersee in Upper Bavaria developed on early evening May 12.

It was very impressing because of the late sun which illuminated the clouds and rain at a low angle. May is a good time for taking pictures of thunderstorms because often the light is better as in July and the air is often more clear. Furthermore, it is a good time to photograph fall stripes of rain which look like curtains and can create very interesting patterns.

The following days more thunderstorms occurred. Weather forecasters had a tough time during May. A couple of time stable, warm weather was predicted. But weather doesn’t behave like it was supposed to be. On Pentecost, May20+21, it should have been warm and dry but there were thunderstorms and showers. May 20 indeed was a surprise, because that “summer day” was more or less a dark day with a heavy thunderstorm and flooding in a village between Murnau and Garmisch Partenkirchen. Already on May 18 an open-air event had to be cancelled due to a thunderstorm in Fürstenfeldbruck, a city not far from Munich.




This is what Sunday, May 20, happened: In the afternoon the sky was loaded with dark clouds and rain. There were also shrouds of mist surrounding the Hohen Peissenberg, which can be seen in the background. Some lightning could be seen in the South. In the evening the weather calmed down.

Morning, May 21, began with a misty sky. There was a low hanging layer of mist between the mountains an the lower areas. The mist soon disappeared and the sky became clear:
The air was still humid and the sun was hot. Perfect conditions for the development of further thunderstorms. In the late afternoon, a thunderstorm cell moved towards lake Ammersee. It was very interesting to follow this thunderstorm since there were fascinating patterns of fall stripes. Furthermore, there was also a rainbow.

It was remarkable that this year in May the thunderstorms were often moving in unusual directions. Sometimes there were moving from South-East to South-West or from North to South. Mostly weather systems are moving from West to East. An unusual constellation of pressure systems in Europe was one reason for the long dry period and the further development.

The thunderstorm on May 21 was coming closer for some time but then stopped. Perhaps the huge lake had an influence. It happens often that lakes are influencing local weather.

In this case, it was again good to know some viewpoints in the area before. It made it easier to follow the weather pattern.

The higher position was particularly helpful to see the rainbow which developed during the thunderstorm.

The rainbow was barely visible for some time but then intensified.

However the most special thing was the development in the upper part of the thunderstorm-cloud.

There were not only fall stripes below the cloud but in this case, it was clearly visible that rain came from the upper levels.

It was indeed like a “waterfall” in the sky.

The unstable weather continued.The title picture was taken a few days later, May 24.

There were further dramatic events in the middle of Germany with flooding. There was also a tremendous portion of hail in some places.
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