I posted this on my other blog back in October, but given the season, it seems appropriate to post it again here. Winter is a great time to get out and make some photos – if you’re prepared for the cold and snow.
1) Stay powered. Cold temperatures reduce the length of time your camera’s batteries will function. Always bring a spare or two, and use power-sapping features like auto focus, live view, and LCD playback sparingly.
2) Stay dry. Keep snow away from your camera and lenses as much as possible. While dry, fluffy snow isn’t as bad as rain on your equipment, you should still blow or wipe it from your gear whenever necessary. Also, never bring a camera and lenses directly into a warm environment after it has been out in the cold. Pack them in your camera bag or plastic bags before heading inside and let them warm up to room temperature before taking them out. Otherwise, moisture will condense on the glass and metal surfaces, potentially damaging your gear.
3) Expose for your highlights – the snow. A snowy landscape will often throw off a camera’s meter, sometimes to the point of underexposing your photo as much as two stops. When shooting in winter, take a test shot and check your histogram. You should have pixels stretching almost to the right side of the graph in order to ensure properly exposed snow. If you don’t, add light to your exposures by using a slower shutter speed. However, if your histogram spikes on the right side (you’ll probably have the blinkies too), then your photo is overexposed and you need to use a faster shutter speed.
4) When the snow is falling, try a variety of shutter speeds. A shutter speed of 1/250 second or faster will stop the motion of falling snow – if that’s the look you want. For a streaky snow, use a shutter speed between 1/125 and 1/30 second, but slower than that and the snow may blur completely away and look more like fog than snow.
5) Get out in the good light. Just like during other times of year, shooting during the “Golden Hour” around sunrise and sunset will result in more opportunities for photos with interesting shadows and textures, warmer tones, and more colorful skies.
For those of you looking for some winter photo instruction, I’ll be leading a 3-day winter photography workshop in the White Mountains at the AMC Highland Center, Feb 10 -12, 2012.
I’m also still offering free shipping on my new book, which includes a section on winter photography: The AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography.
Let me know if you have any winter photo questions, or tips of your own.