4 Winter Photography Tips
I’ve been dreaming of photographing winter scenes.
Tree boughs draped in new fallen snow, dark waters meeting white shores and the low solstice sun throwing long shadows across crystalline meadows. Alas, while this winter is an improvement on the last it is still coming up short on snowfall. The clouds have been sullenly reluctant to release their bounty and the little snow that has fallen was quickly evaporated by a tropical blast we call the “Chinook.” The trees are dull and ground dappled in dirty snow. The only thing left for an outdoor photographer in Alaska to do is, look up.
Northern winter skies are filled with mesmerizing colors and cloud formations. Twilight comes dancing in on blue shoes, unfurling diaphanous auroras behind her. Alaska winters are a photographer’s dream and yet even in the best conditions I’ve been smoked more than once. Successful winter photography takes planning and preparation. Conditions change fast and if you’re not ready, whatever caught your eye will be gone before you can say “f/8.” The following 4 winter photography tips will help you prepare to capture that moment when it comes.
Be ready. Charge your battery and put it back in the camera immediately. Ideally, have plenty of spares charged up too. Cold weather drains them fast. Likewise, make sure there is a formatted memory card in your camera at all times, with plenty of space on it. Keep your lens(es) clean and don’t neglect your sensor. You’ll be shooting many winter scenes at smaller apertures and sensor boogers will be especially noticeable in sky shots. Finally, keep your camera with you as much as possible. Dramatic scenes don’t announce themselves ahead of time.
Be practiced. If you’re serious about photography, then practice. A lot. You should be able to evaluate at a scene, apply your creative vision, and dial in the settings in mere seconds. If you’re stumped on exposure or fumbling with settings, you’re probably going to miss it.
Turn around. It’s easy to get fixated on a scene when the real winner is behind you. This tip goes hand-in-hand with another like it, change your point of view. If you have time, work a scene from every angle you can think of. Do it while you can because changing perspective is a rare thing PhotoShop can’t do. You don’t want to be sitting at your computer later wishing you had moved just a little this way or that.
Be Safe! Dress for the weather. Warm boots with a good pair of ice grippers is a must. Bring a flashlight, fully charged cell phone and a friend.
Lastly, a bonus tip: take time to breath in the moment. While you shoot, listen to the sounds of the season. A raven’s caw, the trickling of mountain rivulet that hasn’t quite frozen yet, dried leaves chattering in the wind. When you look at your photos later, these memories will likely come back and give more dimension and enjoyment to the scene.
Twilight Photo Tour is a fun way to become familiar with photographing winter landscapes. Your Alaska Photo Treks guide will drive you to a variety of scenic locations and provide coaching along the way.