Winter is usually a high point for many landscape photographers but what do you do when the weather just keeps being gray and boring?
In 2019, I had one day of snow in Denmark, and in 2020 none whatsoever. Without snow or frost, most winter landscapes and woodland scenes are rather unimpressive and uninspiring. The question is what to do about it and is it possible to get beautiful photos without the typical winter conditions?
The most obvious way to solve the problem of the lack of snow is to go or travel to where it is. Due to the current pandemic and lockdowns around the globe, I will not linger too much at this tip. However, if you are free to move around your own country responsibly and snow is present somewhere it is just about getting out.
Avoid Depending on the Season
If you do not have access to snow and frost for your landscapes then avoid scenes where you depend on it. Such a location could be the ocean. No matter if you have beaches or cliffs these scenes usually work independently of what season you photograph them. In the below photo, I went to a lighthouse along the Danish coast. The foreground grass is green in the summer half of the year, but the photo still works great due to the composition and light.
Another seascape scene that worked great for me was one I visited in December. Due to the erosion of some clay cliffs, the trees above fall down onto the beach and out into the sea. Frost and snow would not make a difference for the scene to work.
Personally, I prefer green and lush forests full of fog and during winter when the trees are without leaves they are of less interest to me. Although not my best, the below photo, is a great example of woodland photography during winter. As spruce and pine forests keep their needles during winter these forests are great to visit with and without snow or frost.
Embrace the Gray
Winter can have clear days, but if the weather is all gray and moody, I would suggest embracing it. Some of my personal favorite photos are with gray clouds taken on days, which would be considered less optimal for landscape photography.
The above photo from Blackchurch Rock in southwestern England works for several reasons, but in this context, the color contrast between the red rocks and gray-blue sky makes it both moody and beautiful. I originally wanted to get the shot with a sunrise behind it, however, several years later I am very happy the weather turned out as it did.
Another example is the above one from Iceland. Here the gray dramatic clouds compliment the dramatic rocks.
Last but not least, embrace minimalism and simplicity. The below photo was taken close to where I live last winter. The two cormorants work as the subjects of the photo, and the long exposed water and introduction of negative space in the sky creates a dramatic minimalist photo.
And what about a classic pier photo? I again introduce a lot of sky and invite the viewer into the scene along the pier.
In this new photo of mine, the fog from a still winter morning works great to simplify and to create depth and separation in a simple little forest scene.
Although you do not get any snow or frost during winter there are probably many opportunities for taking beautiful and moody photos. It really is just about getting out there. Be patient and open to something new. If you have more tips for shooting in gray weather feel free to share them below.