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My photo-taking slows way down in winter. I shoot mostly outdoors, and the cold, ice, snow, rain, and shortened-daylight make it difficult for me to muster the motivation to suit-up and brave Chicago's winter environment. BUT.... this is not to say my photography is put to rest entirely. Here is partly what I do to grow my craft as a photographer from December through February.

  1. Study the Photographs of Others -- I study the results of both other amateur photographers and the acknowledged professionals. I study photographers of all skill levels, from intermediate to old-masters. I use the infinitely vast collections on the Internet as I once would have used printed art books and trips to the art galleries and museums. The Internet is also rich with free-and-fee tutorials and lessons from master photographers and photography businesses.

  2. Evaluate, inventory, clean, and maintain your gear -- You don't want to wait until the week before an important family gathering or warm-season vacation trip to remember you are lacking the serviceable gear you need. Decide which lenses and bodies need a professional CLA and send them away for attention now. Use this slack time to scout out the used-listings on eBay or on the dealers' web sites for bargain replacements, upgrades, and accessories. Sell or trade-in the gear you seldom use.

  3. Backup your photo archives -- It's easy to get too busy during the peak season just shooting and editing new photographs. This slack time is valuable in sorting through the activity of the past year, and making sure you have a good backup of your archives in the event of natural or technological disaster. Keep an extra set of backups with a friend or relative away from your home location.

  4. Plan your shooting projects for the coming season -- Goals without plans are only dreams. Decide on interesting creative projects and write down the dates and locations you are aiming for. Reach for the next level in your photography and figure out what new skills or gear you will need. Consider exploring a new-to-you genre. Even creating your own web page using your given name as the URL to showcase your work has never been easier or more affordable. Using templates at host sites, you can customize your unique look for a few clicks and a monthly fee.

  5. Take photos indoors -- Spend an afternoon or three setting up and photographing your collectibles and random household items, or even the special meals you prepare. Practice your still-life lighting setups, and experiment with pet-and-kid portraits, perhaps.

What do YOU do to keep busy during the winter?