It is winter in the northern hemisphere and the cold winds howl. Here are five tips to help you get better winter landscape photos.
Landscape photography is the genre of photography that benefits the most from changing seasons. There is always something to photograph and winter is no exception. Frost and snow change the landscape more than anything and can transform it to either a wonderland or a dramatic Fimbulwinter.
The question is how do you deal with this transformed landscape when you want to photograph it?
Tip 1: Finding Snow
First and foremost you do need to find some snow. In some countries, it is no problem, while in others it can be a bit more of a hassle. Not to mention that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and we are restricted from traveling. Denmark, where I am from, has not had a good snowy winter for years, but we do get snow showers, which can be rather local. I use different apps, but especially the Danish metrological institute provides some good radar data for where snow is falling. On top of that, I use the webcams from our road service to confirm if there is actually snow laying on the ground. Check out the above video to see how local the snow can be in Denmark.
Tip 2: Strong Subject
Generally, in landscape photography you want to have a strong subject or focal point. It can be a church, mill, barn, mountain, lone tree, or so forth. The point is you are taking a picture of something specific and not just a beautiful view. The eye needs a kind of anchor point from where it can explore the rest of the photo.
Tip 3: Embrace Minimalism
If you get enough snow, it covers the entire landscape, which can create some beautiful and simple scenes. This is the time to really embrace minimalism. If you can combine a snowy scene with snowfall or fog, then you are almost home free in regard to creating fine art. I have already written a lengthy article about minimalism. Be sure to read that too.
As of writing this article, we have yet to get a really good snowfall in Denmark in 2021, however, I know exactly where to go once we do. I have already visualized several scenes (one of them in the photo below), which I know will look amazing covered in snow.
Tip 4: Shutter Speed
Using different shutter speeds during a snowfall can change the look of your photos drastically. In the first example below, I went with a fast shutter speed to catch the individual snowflakes. This gives the photo kind of a raw feeling, which compliments the scene beautifully.
In this next example, I used a shutter speed of 1/40s, which sounds fast, but with falling snow, it is enough to create some beautiful streaks, which kind of “tames” the drama, yet keeps the idea of falling snow.
With a long shutter speed of more than one-second, you can make the snow emulate fog. In the one-second shutter speed example below I did just that. A snow shower came towards us, but due to the shutter speed, you cannot see the individual snowflakes. I even had to dehaze the photo a bit to create some contrast and depth in the photo.
Tip 5: Get Out Fast!
The last tip is to get a/the location you want to photograph before anyone else to avoid footprints in the snow. This is especially important at iconic and well-visited locations. The below photo is from a well-visited forest in Denmark I visited a few days after the snowfall. It was impossible to find a spot, which did not have footprints and visible ground in the snow.
Be sure to check out the video above for five more tips that I did not share in this article and good luck with your winter photography. Do you have more winter photography tips? Be sure to share them below.