What you are going to do is photograph the winter landscape…it isn’t hard, but being prepared is what will make it successful or a failure. When I was in the Canadian Rockies during the month of February a few years ago, I froze my butt off when temperatures were hitting -29F each day; and I was dressed for extreme temperatures. When it is that cold, all you care about is warmth, not photography. There were amazing bubbles of methane on Lake Abraham; I took perhaps three shots and ran for the car.
Fortunately, we don’t get that kind of cold here, but it is important to stay warm when photographing in winter; how you feel will impact your images.
Here are a few suggestions for winter landscape photography:
- Warm clothes in layers. I love wool or polyester/wool blends. Don’t wear jeans or cotton.
- Wool hat
- Wool socks with warmers in my boots.
- Hand warmers stuffed in pockets; I wear those mitt/gloves, but they suck.
- Waterproof boots of course and what I find works really well are those snowboarder’s pants…you look cool, too.
Now, on to the camera equipment:
- Bring only the lenses you need…I usually carry one wide angle and one short telephoto in a backpack. Keep batteries in your coat to keep them warm; they will last longer.
- Remember that the camera sensor loves 18% grey, and it will make snow that color..what I usually use as a starting point is to overexpose one stop on snow..then if I can’t find what I want, the bracketing begins. Once there is an exposure that works well, I switch to manual and use that setting…check the histogram so you don’t blow the highlights. Here are a couple of examples:
- I usually like to carry a polarizer with me for the sky, since in winter there are a lot of blue skies. It will enhance the sky and make it a vivid blue; beware of it on super wide angle lenses as it cannot polarize the whole sky and may create a dark blue area in the center of your image…be certain you are 90 degrees to the angle of the sun to use it successfully.
- If you want to experiment and are in a valley or canyon, a fisheye lens can give amazing results.
- Another idea that is fun to try is the blue/gold polarizer. Singh-ray makes a very good one; it screws onto your lens and rotates like a polarizer, but can change the color of water to blue or gold. You must remove the regular circular polarizer when you use the blue/gold. I use it mainly in winter with snow or ice on the ground as it is a very difficult filter to use effectively…here is an example of the blue/gold polarizer.
- And don’t forget to try abstracts as well as landscapes..here is ice with a little snow on it..Winter is when it is easy to give up and stay indoors…but don’t! Go out and be creative!
- One final tip: when you come inside from shooting in a cold environment: do not take your camera out of the bag until it has reached room temperature, otherwise, there will be condensation on the lens and if you remove a lens, sometimes inside the camera; we all know that water and electronics don’t mix…