Winter is Coming
Winter is only a month or two away and many photographers will find it challenging to press on through the dreary winter months; especially those of us that live in Seattle or other areas where wind, rain, sleet and snow pound the region for months on end.
In this article I’ve outlined some tips to keep your landscape photography fresh when the weather starts to head south.
The transition between fall and winter offers up a unique opportunity to photograph fall color under a fresh dusting of snow. If the forecast is calling for snow toward the end of fall, head out and see what you can find!
The warmer colors of the fall leaves and foliage will be presented in stark contrast against the cold tones of the snow and can make for very interesting and dynamic images. The above image was taken in the central Cascade mountains of Washington state at the end of Fall.
Head to the Desert
This may sound like a weird tip, but if you have any sort of opportunity to visit the desert or the canyon lands of any kind during the winter, do it! Places like Bryce Canyon in Utah (pictured above) and the Grand Canyon in Arizona offer very unique conditions and compositions that the average tourist won’t get to see during the summer months.
Snow can add a nice color contrast to the desert landscape and can also add soft textures to the arid environment. As an added bonus you won’t have to deal with the crazy crowds and 100 degree temperatures.
Shooting waterfalls during the winter months can often times make even popular and well shot locations look refreshing and new. Multnomah falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in Oregon and even it can take on a different appearance during the winter.
The frozen spray from the falls can add some really nice textures and visual elements to your images. The snow can also contrast well with the icy blue water flowing over the falls.
- If you plan to shoot waterfalls or any sort of moving water during the winter definitely invest in a good set of micro-spikes (for traction) to give you an extra edge for hiking and climbing.
- Trekking poles (your tripod can work in a pinch) are also a great idea to help with stability and balance while transversing icy terrain.
- If your tripod comes with metal spikes or feet it’s always good idea to bring them along as they may work better (or worse) depending upon conditions.
- Lightweight gloves that are water resistant, but also offer great mobility and warmth can be a lifesaver when operating a camera in cold and wet weather
- Hip-waders and Gortex can definitely help keep you dry and comfortable.
Let’s face it, slipping and falling into a river or on a rocky slope isn’t something you really want to do in cold weather.
The Mountains are Calling
Snow and the winter weather that comes with it can really add depth and layers to your images. Heading to the mountains with a longer focal length lens can really help to emphasize winter weather conditions such as fresh snow, low clouds and fog.
When the weather looks to be heading south I love to head up to the mountains to check out how the conditions are shaping up for sunset and sunrise.
- Bring waterproof and breathable layers, snow shoes and any other supplies that you may need when you find yourself hiking in cold conditions.
- Packing a Jet Boil (or another source of heat) and some instant meals can be a lifesaver if you’re in a pinch.
- A GPS can be your best friend if your tracks get covered by fresh snow.
- Check the weather forecasts often and do some research to ensure that you don’t find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Chase the Storms
The sunsets that often follow winter storms can offer some of the most intense and gorgeous light that you can capture. To really take advantage of this try heading to the coast just as a low pressure system has begun to move on shore. It takes a bit of planning but the sunset/sunrise conditions on the back edge of the storm can be absolutely spectacular! The above image was taken in late winter at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.
- Check the weather forecasts hourly when planning a trip like this.
- The National Weather Service here in the US is a great place to track weather and believe it or not the Weather Channel website offers some of the most accurate forecasts you can find on the internet.
- The NOAA Hi-Def radar smartphone App can give you a great deal of insight into minute by minute precipitation and cloud cover forecasts.
As an added bonus you won’t have to deal with that pesky marine layer that often plagues the west coast of the US during the summer months.
Stay Close to Home
If the conditions are just too dangerous or you just don’t have time to plan a trip, look to areas near you for unique vantage points and compositions that can offer up very different photographic results during the winter months. This was taken near my home in Snoqualmie, WA.
Get creative in your surroundings! This shot was taken with my Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6L IS lens. Using longer focal lengths in your area can really open up new and exciting compositional opportunities.