Winter is one of the most welcomed and most hated time of the year. For those new to snow and even the snow-veterans, the first snowfall is a time for smiles, snow fights, snowmen, and flashing cameras.
1) Approaching the Scene
One of the first steps to taking spectacular winter shots involves how you approach your picture. There are several questions you should ask yourself when you decide to take some winter photography.
- When is the best time?
- How fresh is the snow?
- What will I need to take with me?
- Where am I planning on going?
If you go to bed and its snowing, wake up early and take some shots before the sun’s light becomes blindingly bright on the snow. This will also enable you to capture some of the dew that has frozen before it melts with the rising sun.
There are different colors associated with each part of the day during the winter. This is because of the sun and how it affects the snow. In the morning hours you will have softer lighting and colors that are true to reality. When you start getting to around midday you’ll start seeing a blueish hue to the overall picture, seemingly cooling off the scene. As evening falls those cool colors will fade into warmer red overtones. Lastly, night time is the best time for reflections off the snow. The moonlight will give you the necessary light to give an awe inspiring look to your photography.
When it comes to choosing subjects for your photography there are more than several options. If you see an intricate interlacing of branches covered in snow or a child after snowball fight or even a snow-covered pine cone, move in closer to get rid of the excess background. When doing so, don't forget to use your camera's "macro/closeup" feature. By moving closer you cut out excess light that could mess up the exposure of the picture and draws a viewers attention to the details of the picture.
In regards to details, stop and look around. See if there is anything that would be an unusual but visually captivating subject for a picture or two. Spiderwebs, for instance, have such fine intricate detail and the snow just adds an added element to it. If you choose to photograph something finite as a spiderweb make sure there is a dark background so the detail stands out instead of blends in with the snow.
When choosing what type of angle you want to take your photographs at, keep in mind that each angle has a purpose. For example, you wanted to make your kid's new snowman look impressively tall and mighty get close to the ground and angle it up. Other times you want to take a picture of a beautiful landscape. In this case you want to cut out some of the sky to even out and control the light exposure. So position yourself higher than the landscape you are photographing and angle down. Lastly, in your quest to find your perfect pictures don't forget to look up and down also. There are many angles and sights to be seen, if we only take the time to look.
2) Setting the Camera
When setting out into the cold what is the first thing that will happen to your camera? You're right, the lens will fog right up. Don't freak out and start wiping at it. This will only mess with your lens. That fogginess will disappear after a few minutes when the optics adjust to the new temperature. Patience will save you a lot of hassle and cleaning when your lens fogs up.
The second most common occurrence with cold weather and cameras are battery problems. Cold batteries die quicker, causing hassles and running up havoc. To prevent batteries from ending your photo-shoot early be sure to bring extras and keep them in a warm place till your need them. If you can, alternate between the sets of batteries so you always have warm ones on hand. There are also some pro-spec SLRs with special battery packs. You can keep the batteries in your pocket the whole time, keeping them warm, while using a cord to connect it to the camera.
Your camera's flash can either fix or ruin a winter picture, depending on the circumstances. When taking pictures of falling snow turn the flash off. If you leave the flash on the light will reflect of the flakes and turn the snowflakes into fuzzy snowblobs. When it's sunny or you are taking wildlife photos you will want to use your fill flash to reduce the contrast. This is also a time when you get as close as you can to your subject. With wildlife that may not be very close. By reducing contrast you are lightening facial shadows and reducing the amount of white background your camera registers.
3) Final Shots
You finally have angles, lighting, batteries, and the subject all figured out its time to take the shot. You have combined all the elements of a professional photographer into each shot taken. So in parting here are a few final tips to help you make your winter photography your best.
Winter is a world blanketed in white. Adding color into that world will produce drama and rapture in your work. Not every shot needs to have color but when you see a spot of color while taking your winter photos, take the time to use the color. Add life and vitality to your winter work with a splash of color.
Also the rich details of winter and the variety of textures snow provides can create an awe-inspiring shot that could make you day worthwhile. As the architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, "It's all in the details". Notice and capture the stunning details in the world around you.