Well it is winter again, and it’s been snowing a bit. Sometimes it’s ugly, but at other times magical. When almost everything outside has been touched by snowflakes and you are looking through a lens, it can be a fantastic moment. You are capturing images of your world changed. While there is not snow everywhere, there has been enough of it to make things interesting. Here are some more winter photography tips to get you through.
Things I Now Keep With Me in the Winter
Everybody has gone, nothing to see–or is there?! All of this in front of you waiting to be composed under grey skies and chilled air. Yet, that won’t be of use if you don’t have the gear to capture it. If you leave needed gear at home you are screwed, and that is why you need an “uh oh” kit.
In the two bags I use the most, my Tamrac Evolution 8 and Crumpler Sinking Barge, I purchased extra SD and CF cards that always stay in them, just in case I walk out of the house without putting my normal cards in my camera. This has saved my bacon a few times. In the winter I always try to carry a zip lock bag with silica gel packets, just to make sure they don’t break, and a small towel. This has come in handy not just in snowy situations but also in the rain as well. It helps to get the camera dry if it is exposed to the elements. A mini tripod like my Ultrapod II is in my bag to keep the camera out of the snow or off of a wet surface. Using the environment as a tripod, in the winter, is not always a great idea. I keep my camera on a good strap like my Black Rapid RS 7. If it’s icy and I slip, I don’t want to drop my gear.
It is good to try and keep your lens selection simple in the winter weather. In the snow, I do not want to change my lenses too often. I do, however, choose something to have fun with.
In my original post, I stated that it is good to keep a lens like the Tamron 18-270mm super zoom on the camera. Once I am done with that or if I get bored, however, I can change my lens and get creative. I always try to keep a prime lens with me like my Nikon 40mm DX 2.8 macro. It’s a flexible lens that allows me to shoot macros, portraits, and even a bit of landscape. Some time I go out with just an Nikon 85mm f/1.8Ds.
An 85mm, no matter who makes it, is a lens we think everyone should have. It’s great for quick portraits, but also great for isolating your subjects in the snowy weather. It’s excellent in almost any situation. Being able to change my lens allows me to also change my style for the day enable more time shooting. When changing it I find a spot like a store or a car. If I am in an open area, and I absolutely have to change my lens, I turn my back to the wind. Using my body as a shield, I change the lens as quickly as possible. If the weather is too crappy, I make due with what’s on the camera.
When out in the snow people always remain fun as subjects. Instead of just shooting candid shots of people, use the weather to plan some interesting environmental portraits, if you can. The snow can provide unique backdrops. As long as everyone is warm, great work can be produced. Everything is about the moment and getting out of the cold so there is no messing around. It’s all about getting the shot efficiently. Don’t abandon candid shots though. You never know what you’re going to see.
Time Does Not Matter
Winter, when there is snow on the ground, is an outstanding time for contrast, no matter what time of the day. Snow does not care when it falls. There will be contrast at any time of the day. The wet white stuff tends to reflect light very well. All you need is simple prime lenses like the 50mm f1.8 or if you are shooting micros 4/3s, the 20mm F1.7 or Sony 16mm F2.8.
Shooting with auto ISO gives you one less thing to fiddle with in the cold and snow. The important thing is to know the limits of your camera. If your camera gets noisy after ISO 3200, set your limit there. However, if you are using software like Adobe Lightroom 4, which has great noise reduction, you can get away with going a little higher. This allows you to walk in and out of different environments to get your images quicker.
Let mistakes happen as you’re not going to get every shot. In the snow you have to be careful or you will be miserable after you hurt yourself by slipping and falling. Do not kill yourself for a shot. Let the shots go if you have to. Mistakes happen, move on.
If you are prepared to explore, winter can be a great time for finding unique places to shoot. Snow can bring things to a standstill. Places, which are usually busy, sit silently. Everybody has gone. There is nothing to see, or is there? All this is in front of you waiting to be composed under grey skies and chilled air. In these locations, snow tends to be untouched.
Take Advantage of the Condition
In the snowy weather there tends to be a lot see. If there was a lot of snow, there are less people out. If there was not too much snow, you have people out doing things. Take a moment to look around and see what is going. Do not always go for shallow depths of field. You want to get everything into the shot clearly. Do not always look at the big picture. Get intimate scenes also. There are many little details all around. Again, if you just take the time to look. It is why I carry a macro lens. Things like melting snow, footprints, and icicles can make wonderful images. They provide singular moments that will fade once the snow melts. They also draw your viewer into the moment.
In the End
When it comes to the weather, we have no clue what is coming next. It is good to be prepared for this weather when this time of year comes. The winter can be unpredictable at times, but it can also be entertaining. Go out and have fun. When it snows, don’t just stay in front of your screens all day .
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