As we prepare for the first snowfall of the year, some of us imagine starting our fires and hanging up the camera until warmer weather invites us outside. But for those brave enough to endure the cold, you will be rewarded!
For us, winter equates with stunning light, dramatic skies, and of course: snow. Winter is our chance to view nature getting right down to its basics, stripped and bare. It is our chance to create sleek lines on uncluttered backgrounds. It is our chance to view and photograph New Zealand’s wilderness more elegantly than at any other time of year.
Plan and Prepare
While we do sometimes like to run out with our cameras as soon as the desire grabs us, it is usually a good idea to plan if you want to take amazing photos in these cold months. We try to plan what we hope to capture and where we are going before heading out. We have scouted out locations that we know suit the winter season, so the minute it starts snowing, we know where to go.
The most extreme weather conditions often create the most interest images, so we plan all of our equipment in advance. That way, if it starts to snow or rain, we’re completely protected and we don’t have to run for cover. You can buy custom covers, but we are perfectly happy using plastic bags. We also have a lens brush and microfibre cloth handy for keeping the lens clear. We always bring spare batteries since low temperatures can make batteries less efficient. Don’t forget yourself too – wear wool, insulated layers and thin gloves!
Give your images some life
An image with life is not about the equipment or technical proficiency; it’s about transporting the viewer into the image. The viewer can feel the cold, smell the air, hear the serenity. Simple winter landscapes make the perfect canvas for these minimalist, clean and mysterious images that elicit emotion. Winter is a great time to engage empty space; it adds a feeling of isolation to the image. A large white winter landscape might highlight the subject’s feeling of vulnerability—this aspect would be lost in a close-up portrait of the same subject.
Snow produces an incredible ambiance that gives an image a sense of place fantastic atmosphere that can give an image a sense of place. We recommend using the manual setting since autofocus in snow can be unreliable. Vary the shutter speed depending on the snowfall: fast for sharpness and clarity, and slow for a soft blurred snow effect.
Use the white
Winter images can sometimes lack color due to all the snow and overcast skies. While this can produce a dull image, it also gives us an opportunity to make a spectacular minimalist image. Any color – a bright coat, for example, will create a lovely contrast against the white background and give life to the image. Experiment with a variety of subjects, from dull to bright colors, if you want to change the mood of the photograph.
This season also provides the opportunity for stunning white-on-white images that you just won’t find in spring, summer, or fall. A white subject on a white background is very quiet, thought-provoking imagery. Overcast conditions are perfect for this kind of scene. We suggest overexposing the whites by correctly exposing any darker parts of the image, so that we don’t lose detail in the subject.
Use winter light
Winter also gives us more time in the day to experience beautiful golden light. The low arc of the winter sun makes long, dramatic shadows and reflections, both very powerful elements in an image. Capture abstractions in the simple, calm nature of winter light. Snow drifts and tree branches, for example, produce spectacular shapes, textures, and shadows.
In winter, the light tends to look bluer, and your photos will result with a slightly blue cast. To avoid this discoloration, be sure to adjust the white balance. This will counteract the blue in the atmosphere and capture a more genuine representation of the scene.
Winter is a wonderful season for photography—don’t let the cold prevent you from getting out there and capturing gorgeous images.
If you’re keen to learn more about winter photography or would like to share your own tips, feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear your thoughts!