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Winter Photography

You wouldn’t think so but winter photography can be a beautiful thing. In fact snowscapes is one of the most challenging to winter photography enthusiasts. The difficulty can be that the average light tone of a snowscape is a lot lighter than what a medium grey tone is. This can put your meter readings out and give you an incorrect reading for your winter photography. In cases like these the snow is underexposed even though the camera may be telling you the exposure is just right.

Another consideration for winter photography and snow scenes is that there are no defined lines or sharp shapes to give your scene some distinguishing depth in your composition. It can look completely flat. The softness is lovely, but when it’s ALL soft the photo looks flat, especially if the clouds are overhead. It can look like a blanket of grey/white.
This photo would be quite dull if it weren’t for the telegraph poles to give it some depth and distance. The stark black lines going into the distance is what brings this photo to life. It adds a sense of mystery as to where the road is going and what we might find at the end of it. From a composition point of view, find some extra colour or shade in amongst your white/grey scene to help add depth and distance.
When you feel enthusiastic about Winter Photography you’ll see things differently. There are so many unusual patterns and shapes that newly formed snow and frozen water can bring you.
You can get sensational snowscapes but you can also get incredible macro photos too. Take your macro lens with you, your ND or polarizer if the sun is glaring off the snow. As well as underexposing the white snow in the midday sun can reflect pure white, bright light. You can also use a graduated filter to help add some colour or tone in an otherwise grey or white scene.
Adding colour to your snow photography

Finding some colour in your snowscape will be a rewarding experience. For example if you are photographing wildlife, the colour of a bird against the stark white snow will be highly beneficial in itself. If you are photographing people, you can create some dramatic composition with angles of the snow and mountain side.

Portraits in your winter snowscape
What a perfect background snow makes for portrait photography. You can use the blanket of white around your subject as a way to completely focus in on their eyes and face. The extra added patches of colour from their ear muffs or red ski hat will stand out and give you some brilliant portraits. Meter from their face and medium areas of colour. Don’t worry too much about the darker parts of their clothing being a little underexposed, it’s their face you want to highlight the most.

Try some dramatic angles

f you are taking winter shots at a mountain range, try some dramatic angles. Perhaps take the shot from the angle at the base of the mountain with the steep slope angled severely upwards. Or perhaps try the opposite- a bird’s eye view of the scene below.

Macro Winter Photography
Take your macro lenses with you. If you do not have a macro lens then take a magnifying glass with you instead. You’ll find some distortion at the edges of your frame but if the photo is what you want you can always edit this out after, or, perhaps you might like this effect. Icicles and frozen water are a brilliant opportunity for some winter macro photography. You can get some superb close up macro shots of frozen water, or icicles hanging from a tree. It looks as if the water has been suspended in time.

Your camera in the winter
Depending on how cold your country gets you may need to take some spare batteries with you. If it is snowing take a bag for your camera to protect it from the freezing temperatures. Don’t wipe the snow off your lens as it might scratch the lens and the warm breath might leave condensation. If that’s the case you have to wait for it to come back to normal.
The best way to get beautiful pristine winter shots is to get yourself rugged and ready and make sure you protect your camera from the freezing cold too.
In my experience of Winter photography its best to invest in some Thermal clothing. When I went to New Zealand in the Winter time a few years ago I was shocked at the level of cold this planet can reach. Fortunately I bought some thermal insulated under garments (singlet, stockings) and a hat.  Make sure you either have a phone with you or someone knows where you are going and how long you will be.
The technical side of winter photography
As an average once you have sunlight reflecting off the snow you can have a change within minutes of your light and exposure. When the snow is fresh it means the whiter it’ll be. In this case you’ll be faced with shooting a mass of white and no defining details to make the photo interesting. Try increasing the aperture by around two F stops.  However if the sun is on an angle, say late in the afternoon, or late morning, you might find it creates shapes and lines in the curves of the snow covering the trees and ground.
When the snow is not a pure white, or has been there for a while and has gained some darker areas such as patches of grey, you’ll fid that increasing your F stop by 2 will overexpose the area. Try increasing the F stop by 1 only.
As light conditions in the winter can change from hour to hour you’ll get your best results by taking a series of photos in succession and each time increasing the F stop by half. This is called exposure bracketing, a handy technique for those who are unsure as to what the right combination will be.
If you want to take stunning landscape photos photos with bold colour, super sharp focus and detail, clarity and depth take a look at our Landscape Photography website. This e-book package includes excellent step-by-step instructions on how to take pictures of beautiful landscapes, sunsets, beaches, rivers, lakes, waterfalls all in every kind of light you can imagine. It explains, in simple English, how depth of field works to get a more expansive feel in your landscapes, opening up your pictures to give them a feeling as if you were really there. Learn how to shoot professional landscape photos – just like those you see in glossy nature magazines.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time. DigitalPhotographySuccess.com

Comments (2)

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  1. Chris Morton says:

    Great article. In Calgary at the moment it’s -41c. I think that’s also -41 in Fahrenheit. I think I’ll wait till it warms up at 0 degrees before I go out shooting.

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