Edward Mendes: Tips for Making Great Winter Photographs
Well, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s cold! Winter is here in full force and that usually means photographers start to go into a state of creative hibernate for the winter. Traditionally winter is the time for us to stay indoors and sort through our film or digital files from the warmer months, make prints and yearn for all the photos we’ll be makings when our favorite shooting locations start to defrost. Why is that anyway? Are we allergic to the cold? Certainly not every photographer curls up into a ball when the temperature dips, I certainly don’t. Winter, and especially snowfall makes for great images and nothing gives the feel of winter like fresh snow. The images you make during the Winter months can be used for stock, calendars, fine art or anything else, you just have to be careful and remember a few things.
Dress for success: You make the best images when you’re comfortable. Remember, it’s cold during the winter months and being out in the field shivering with your hands and feet going numb can make it impossible to keep your mind on what it is your out there to do, create new images. A few things to remember when dressing for winter photography, wear clothing that your maneuverable in; going out in the field usually mean doing some hiking, bending over to get your equipment, packing and unpacking your pack and being able to work those small buttons on your camera. Light weight coats, pants, socks and gloves that provide a wealth of warmth are available from many suppliers to make your trip more productive.
Planning makes perfect: As with any photography outing, you should always take the time to do your homework. Researching the local weather predictions and knowing the normal weather patterns are two of the most important elements in researching that will help you to not get left out in the cold. If you have some flexibility in your schedule check the weather every day and be ready to head to your favorite snowy location on a moment’s notice if the conditions are right. Also, regardless of what the weather predictions are, be prepared for the worse. Remember to carry the right snow chains for your vehicle and to fill that gas tank before heading out for the day.
Get inspired: Know what others are doing in the area in which you’ll be working. Look at a lot of images from that area, this will give you a good sense of some of the best areas to work, some of the best trails to hike and may also give you a glimpse of what to except from an area before you visit. This information can be invaluable to you and give you a leg up in creating unique images.
Have the right equipment: Just as it’s difficult to make great images when you don’t have the right clothing it’s equally as difficult to do so when you don’t have proper equipment for cold conditions. Camera batteries lose their charge when the temperature drops so be sure to have an extra one or two on hand and stored in a warm location such as an inner coat pocket. Metal tripod legs get very cold and can be uncomfortable to hold even with gloves on so be sure to install some insulated covers on the legs before heading into the field. Snow shoes or cross country skies can make moving over fresh snow a whole lot easier, not to mention faster. Trenching though fresh, soft snow up to your thigh or waist is a struggle so investing in a good pair of snow shoes isn’t something you’ll won’t regret if winter photography is something you’ll be doing often. Lastly, having the right equipment doesn’t just mean photography equipment. Remember to carry the right snow chains for your vehicle and to fill that gas tank before heading out for the day.
This is a stunningly beautiful time of year filled with snow covered trees, ice patterns on frozen lakes and the stunning tones of winter light. Winter doesn’t have to be a time to let your creatively go dormant, all this wonderful beauty is there for the capturing you just have to be willing to get out and face the cold. So pack up the car, put on your warm cloths and be ready to create some wonderful images this winter.
About the image:
The image above, Winter Wonderland, was created while I was in Yosemite National Park to teach a private “spring” workshop. Instead of wild flowers and dogwood blooms we were greeted by a freak storm that covered the park in fresh beautiful snow. Luckily I carry cold weather gear in my car at all times so I’m ready for anything.
- Nikon D7000
- Nikon 18 – 200mm VRII
- Polarizing Filter
- Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Tripod
- Manfrotto 405 Geared Head
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