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Photograph Better Winter Landscapes

Posted on 10th January, 2019

Photograph Better Winter Landscapes

Don’t hibernate during the winter months. This is one of the best times of year for landscape photography, so wrap up warm and get outdoors with your camera. Snowfall has the ability to transform the landscape into a winter wonderland. A layer of snow will simplify the look of the landscape, reducing it to a series of photogenic shapes while disguising manmade objects or hiding ugly features. Virgin snow and hoar frost clinging onto every branch and twig can create magical conditions. Depending on whereabouts in the World you live, cold spells can either be guaranteed or brief. Either way, you need to be prepared to make the most of the conditions.

Firstly, dress appropriately for the conditions – if you get cold, the desire to get warm and comfortable will overtake the urge to be creative. Wear good thermal base-layers and warm, water and wind proof outer garments. Hat and gloves are important – opt for gloves that are thick enough to keep your fingers warm, but thin enough to allow you to operate your camera and adjust filters. Touch screen or eTip gloves are a good option. Good walking boots are also a must-have. A dedicated rain-cover or sleeve will help you protect your camera from snow flurries and always carry extra batteries – cold temperatures reduce battery life. Condensation can be an issue too, so keep a lens cloth close to hand and gently wipe away any moisture prior to triggering the shutter. If you need to change lens while out shooting, make the switch as quickly as possible and change lens with the body facing downward so no flakes of snow can blow into the camera. 

The best snowy landscapes are typically when the powder is fresh and untouched. So if snow is forecast overnight, get up early and take photos while they are free from human footprints. Think carefully about where you tread, being careful not to step anywhere you might later want to photograph. Tracks, pathways and roads can act as a useful lead-in line in wintry landscapes. Castles, church spires, frozen water, mountain peaks and trees are other strong elements to include. Snowy images can lend themselves to black and white.

Top Tips

  • Being reflective and white, snow has a nasty habit of confusing evaluative metering systems into underexposing results. This will make your snowy exposures appear dark and dull. To compensate, increase exposure length by approx. +1EV.
  • Use your camera’s histogram to help guide you as to how much positive exposure compensation you need to apply.
  • Histograms provide a tonal representation of a scene, so when shooting bright snow graphs will naturally be bunched to the right due. However, the histogram must not be overflowing off the far right of the graph – this would signify overexposure and clipped highlights. 
  • Auto White Balance has a habit of rendering snow with a cool blue colour cast. This can be attractive and enhance the feeling of coldness, but if it undesirable, switch to your camera’s Daylight or Cloudy preset – or adjust in processing.