Winter Photography, Part VI: Cold Shooting   16 comments

Morning at East Zion, Utah

Morning at East Zion, Utah

I’m not happy right now.  I had to leave Facebook (time for a break anyhow).  Not that it’s a big deal, but still, I don’t like being sort of forced into things.  You don’t want the dirty details.  Suffice to say, much as I believe I was born at least 100 years too late, I don’t think I’m made for today’s photography, at least in the landscape arena.

I’m thinking of giving up landscape photography it’s got me so discouraged.  The way to become popular in LS photography is to follow a path that I don’t want to follow.  In fact, I’m including pictures in this post that, while I like them for a few reasons, I’m really not satisfied with.  Maybe I’m being hard on myself, and tomorrow morning I’ll probably be out shooting happily.  But I’m really ready to move onward and upward, and am frustrated with my lack of artistic progress.  I’m not into this for a hobby.

A frozen pond on 13,000-foot Independence Pass in the Colorado Rockies.

A frozen pond on 13,000-foot Independence Pass in the Colorado Rockies.

Is this fun? An image I got by wading through a cold waist-deep stream, pushing aside floating ice.

Is this fun? An image I got by wading through the cold waist-deep water of Oneonta Creek, Ore., pushing aside floating ice.  P.S. it wasn’t really difficult, just making it seem that way!

So back to winter photography.  Here are a few parting tips for successful winter shooting:

  • Don’t Stay in Bed.  This is the hardest thing, at least for me.  Let’s face it, the best light is usually in the early morning or late afternoon, or with today’s cameras even in the middle of the night!  You can do winter photography at any time of day, but since days are shorter your time is limited.  If you want to focus on the golden hours near dusk or dawn, you have two chances each day, and they are much more closely spaced than in the summer.  So get out early and shoot late; you’ll still get plenty of sleep!
  • Positive Exposure Compensation.  Use your exposure compensation feature and over-expose by about a stop when you’re shooting in bright snow.  The amount you need depends on how bright the sun on the snow is, and on how much snow is in the frame.  The old film rule of thumb was +2 stops, but with DSLRs I’ve gotten away with anywhere from +2/3 to a stop and a half in most circumstances.  If you’re shooting RAW you can always bump up the brightness of the snowy parts on the computer, but it’s always best to get it right in camera.  Just don’t actually over-expose anything.  The easiest way to check for this is to set your blinking over-exposure warning (available on most all DSLRs) and always review the image on the LCD.
The Goblins in snow, Utah.

The Goblins in snow, Utah.

  • Watch the Weather.  Yeah, I know it’s great advice any time of year.  But I’ve found that weather patterns will settle into an area and make it so that one time per day is best, and that these conditions could last for a week or more.  I’ve also noticed that this bias is more prevalent in winter, at least in North America.  (It’s one of those things I pass on in this blog that nobody really talks about.)  That preferential shooting time could be around sunset or it could be sunrise.  If it happens to be dawn that is better than sunset, you better get your butt out of bed!
  • Strive for simplicity.  While this is a good thing to come back to from time to time, no matter the season, in winter the opportunities for simple compositions (and simple themes!) seem to abound.  There’s the obvious fact that snow blankets a lot of chaos with a smooth white, but even without snow there tends to be more simple compositions available during the cold months.
  • Take your tripod.  Winter makes it even more important to consider the limitation of low light.  Even during daytime, take your tripod just in case.
An approaching winter storm at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah.

An approaching winter storm at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah.

Alpenglow lights up Mount Hood in Oregon. Snow-covered Mirror Lake is at bottom.

Alpenglow lights up Mount Hood in Oregon. Snow-covered Mirror Lake is at bottom.

  • Be Ready.  Unless you are in Alaska or somewhere in high latitudes during that hemisphere’s months of shorter days, you should be ever cognizant of the brevity of the light.  In temperate regions (which includes nearly all of North America & Europe), so-called golden hour is noticeably briefer during winter months.  Of course your style may dictate that you are set up and ready at all times.  That’s not me, I wander even during good light.  Just be willing, during winter especially, to decide on a composition and subject well before the light comes.
New-fallen snow along the skiing trail: La Sal Mtns., Utah.

New-fallen snow along the skiing trail: La Sal Mtns., Utah.

  • Look for Details.  In winter, often the light is very clear but also quite boring.  That’s the time to look for details and macro opportunities.  Ice is a world unto itself, and often snow or ice clings to the most improbable objects, creating unusual and beautiful photos.  That is, if you’re looking for it.  As you travel through the environment, keep looking near and far, close-up and wide-open.

Okay, that’ll do it for Winter Photography.  I don’t like to be too prescriptive about photography, so it’s up to you from here on out.  Just bundle up and do it!  I’ll try to maintain the blog, even during my pause on social media (talk about love-hate).  But maybe I don’t consider this blog as the typical social media platform.  Anyway, have a great holiday season everyone!

Yesterday morning, with dramatic skies heralding coming snow, a simple corral up an unnamed canyon, southern Utah.

Yesterday morning, with dramatic skies heralding coming snow, a simple corral up an unnamed canyon, southern Utah.

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16 responses to “Winter Photography, Part VI: Cold Shooting

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  1. Amazing photos of these great landscapes!

  2. These are exceptional, really superb. And what an amazing landscape in which to take them. beautiful 🙂

  3. I think Brick said it so well. And I do believe you should only trust yourself and do what you believe in – a break from fb is always on the positive side…I ‘m looking forward to your every post (I try to visit as often as I can…), and
    100 years is nothing. I belong in the 18th century.

    • Haha, well Leya I wouldn’t mind that either, but that would very likely put me in an American Indian tribe, and I can’t decide which one I’d like best (probably Apache or Shoshone).

      • I’m sure you know better than me there…but belonging to an Indian tribe sounds great. They knew better about living in Nature without taking out more than they put in.

  4. 100 years late eh? Well that’s what I like about you – you know who you are and boldly pursue it. That third photo is fantastic though I involuntarily feel my legs going numb! Hope this involuntary break, in some twisted way, works out good for you.

    • Thanks Lyle, my legs were definitely numb, so that I could only stay so long up there. I was due for a break from the standard soc. media sites, but I couldn’t bring myself to do a blog break right now. I slow down on blogging sometimes. I wonder do you get tired of blogging or is it just as time allows?

      • No I definitely get tired of it at times and have even seriously contemplated quiting a few times. But then I usually take a break and the desire returns. I’m much more casual about it now spurred more by desire than schedule. I usually take most of December and August off when readership goes down.

  5. I second the first post. I look forward to your awesome posts. I learn and they are encouraging. Take care and Happy Holidays.

  6. In snow, you say “overexposed!” I would think opposite. None the less, I certainly hope your outlook improves, as you set the bar I strive to imitate. M 🙂

    • Yes that was probably not the right word. I was referring specifically to positive exposure compensation. So your light meter is saying you are over-exposed. But you’re not. I’ve talked about exposure in other posts, including built-in light meters and exposure compensation. So I didn’t go into too much detail here. Thanks!

  7. Your work has a blend of beauty and realism that other landscape photographers often fail to capture and your images are never over processed. I’m guessing your artistic eye combined with your understanding of science and photography gives you the unique perspective and the ability to create such magical work. You words, wisdom and fine art will be missed, but a change in routine can be invigorating. I wish you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to your return. Brick

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