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How to Photograph Winter Landscapes

Photographing ice flows on Turnagain Arm.

Sony A7RII | FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA | 1/250 sec | f/8 | ISO 100

Extremes can make the scene, and from snowscapes to sky shows, ice fog to ice flows, the Alaska provides plenty of photo-worthy extremes in which to photograph winter landscapes.

You will need

  • 1 wintery scene with a foreground subject, middle ground and background
  • Moderate amount of low angle of light (sunrise and sunset colors can add a lot of drama to an otherwise monochromatic landscape)
  • Camera with manual settings
  • Remote or cable shutter release
  • Sturdy tripod
  • Depth of field calculator app
  • Neutral density filter ND8 or higher
  • Appropriate clothing for the conditions, of course!
  • Plastic ziplock bag large enough to fit camera and lens (before bringing your camera into a warm place after shooting, put it in the ziplock bag, seal, and leave until it warms up to room temperature. this will prevent condensation from building up on the electronics.


  1. Aperture Priority (Use +/- on EV setting to increase or decrease exposure as needed.)
  2. ISO 100. (This will yield the sharpest image with the least amount of noise, and will help achieve slower shutter speeds – more on that below.)
  3. Frame the shot using at least one element of composition. Landscape images are most powerful when there is a foreground, middle ground and background.
  4. Place the focus point on the nearest subject and use a depth of field calculator app to make sure everything is in focus from that point to infinity.
  5. Use positive exposure compensation (increase exposure) for bright scenes. Built-in camera meters measure reflected light from the surface of objects to the camera and if the scene contains a lot of snow, it will likely come out underexposed due to the meter trying to render the image medium gray. To avoid this, use the +/- on EV setting to increase .07 to 1 stop.
  6. Mount camera on a tripod
  7. Lock focus on the subject chosen in step 4 and start shooting with the remote or cable shutter release.
  8. Try different shutter speeds. With a ND8 filter, the shutter can be slowed up to 4 stops, which may get shutter speeds into full minutes (depending on camera settings and available light). This will make moving clouds look feathered and streaky. It is also possible to do this without a ND filter if shooting in the low light of dusk or dawn.
  9. Take your time. Watch the light and be ready to capitalize on building colors in the sky.
  10. Don’t pack up too soon! There is nothing sadder than missing THE shot and knowing it. The sky is usually fairly flat in tone about 30 minutes before sunrise or after sunset, after which it can blow up with color. You don’t want to be caught packing up your gear when it happens.


Check out Winter Photography Tips for additional photography advice.

Travel to ideal locations with an experienced aurora photography guide on the Anchorage Aurora Quest – to see and photograph northern lights. The guide will help set up your camera and take memorable aurora portraits of you under the lights.

Twilight Photo Tour is a fun way to explore the winter landscape around Anchorage. An Alaska Photo Treks guide will drive you to a variety of scenic locations and provide photographic support along the way.


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