Tips for the amateur photographer: Capturing the Drama of Winter Landscape
Autumn’s vibrant landscapes have withered and transformed into a seemingly barren and colorless land. It’s tempting to see winter as a lifeless and uninteresting palate not worthy of our time. However, you can capture some of your best landscape photography during winter’s shorter, darker days. If you know where and how to look, you can create some extraordinary images.
With careful planning, you can make good use of the shorter days and be ready to create some of your best landscape work. Obviously, how you plan will depend on where you are and the local weather and landscape conditions. There are many weather apps available to help you prepare accordingly, not just for your camera bag, but for yourself so you’re ready for the elements. Knowing when the sun rises and sets will also be extremely helpful and, yes, there are apps for that as well!
Decide how many lenses and cameras you want to haul into the field and pack them the night before. Usually, just two or three will be enough, including an ultra-wide angle, a 70-200mm telephoto (the lighter, the better). A tripod is helpful if it’s windy or freezing. (Shivering hands from freezing temperatures don’t hold a camera very steady.)
Lightroom presets will be invaluable back in the studio, but bringing several filters with you can give you a good start. Here, again, you’ll want to plan as there's usually no need to take a dozen filters with you. You’ll probably find that a polarizer (as always) is indispensable even in winter light because it can be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate that effect in post-production. Don’t forget the basics such as batteries and extra memory cards.
Make good use of time:
Shorter days mean fewer hours to take advantage of daylight. However, that can work in your favor when it comes to landscape photography. You will need to plan for shorter days and less light. But, the dawn and dusk hours, along with a lower midday winter sun, offer up some of the most exciting lighting conditions of the season.
Aside from the challenges of bad weather, you can shoot pretty much any time. But, poor weather doesn’t have to deter you from getting some great weather shots. Use a tripod when needed and protect your equipment from water and the elements. Some of the best shots can come from those minutes or even seconds just before the weather changes when the light is putting on a show of its own and clouds are most interesting.
Most importantly, be ready. When nature puts on a winter show, to be prepared to capture it. You’ll need more than the right equipment. You’ll also need to be nimble and alert to the changing conditions to obtain the best shots. When a huge lightning bolt strikes the mountaintop on the horizon, if you’re not paying attention or ready, you’ll miss what might have been the best shot of your life.
Capture the drama:
If you want to capture dramatic, breathtaking imagery, winter is it. The lower light of the season, the variable weather conditions, along with some creativity on your part, can produce stunningly beautiful images. Think of winter's light as an opportunity to practice and work in underexposed conditions where the light and dark contrast are essential.
* Try shooting on different apertures and settings.
* Experiment with the light at different times of the day.
* Work with capturing movement for added effect. Just when the winter landscape seems to be at its most dead or barren, capturing the movement of a river bordered by leafless trees creates instant intrigue and contrast beyond light and dark.
* Be alert to the landscape around you and find interest everywhere you look.
* If in doubt, use your camera as you would a telescope. Scour the landscape through your lens, consider the light for effect, but also the shapes of the landscape. Where leaves and color create interest the other three seasons of the year, the natural sculptures of the land are what is interesting during winter - as is the weather itself, at times.
Some of the most show-stopping pictures are winter weather shots.
Winter landscape images:
With some practice, preparation, and experience, you’ll capture some of your best photography during the winter. Experience will help make you better and so will mistakes. Even the most experienced photographers will find some challenges to shooting winter landscapes, but it’s when most photographers will head out to perfect their craft and take advantage of the winter landscapes to produce stunning and dramatic images. You can, as well.