As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, the coming of winter brings with it myriad opportunities for all photographers. So whether you’re interested in portraits, landscapes, nature or capacities, there’s no reason to let your camera slip into hibernation while you wait for the fairer weather of spring.
Winter is a season of extremes that brings with it unique weather conditions including frost, snow, ice and mist; all of which can form the foundation of highly creative images spanning this variety of subjects. The hardest part of winter is staying motivated when it’s freezing cold outside, but make the effort to get out, and you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded.
1. Camera settings for snow
Shooting snow-covered landscapes is a firm favourite, and with the right camera settings you can achieve perfect exposures and white balance in-camera. Shooting in raw is always useful because it provides greater latitude for making adjustments during post- processing. When shooting snow on a cloudy day with daylight white balance set, it’s common for images to have a bluish colour cast; so if this is the case switch to Auto white balance and adjust in post-production.
Another commonly experienced problem when shooting snow is ‘grey’ snow. Since camera metering systems ‘see’ everything as mid-tone grey, it’s all too easy to underexpose the scene and end up with grey rather than white snow. In this situation, depending on the conditions, you’ll need to add exposure compensation between 0.7 and 2.0 stops of overexposure in order to photograph the snow as the eye sees it. Just keep an eye on to make sure you haven’t clipped the highlights.
2. Filters for winter shooting
In winter the filters you normally use – polariser, NDs and ND grads – remain just as effective as at other times of the year. Polarising filters are particularly useful with piercing winter light, as they can be used to reduce glare, remove reflections from water and other reflective surfaces, as well as deepen blue skies.
3. Focus manually when it’s snowing
Falling snow can play havoc with AF systems, simply because the active focus point will lock onto whatever is behind it. To avoid focusing errors when shooting during a snowstorm, simply switch to manual focus so you can lock focus on the desired part of the scene and use Live View focus zoom for precision focusing.
4. Battery drain in the cold
When shooting in cold temperatures, typically below 0°C, you may find that your camera battery discharges much quicker than usual. Charge hasn’t actually gone down, and the battery will function normally once warmed up, so the way around this is to keep a spare battery in an inside jacket pocket to keep it warm, and swap between the two.
5. You have to shoot in manual mode
It’s a common misconception that to be an advanced photographer you must shoot in manual mode. When shooting with extreme ND filters, in the studio or when you need to lock exposure, this may indeed be the case. But, for the majority of shooting, aperture priority combined with exposure compensation will provide identical results faster.
6. Let your camera kit acclimatise
When returning to a warm environment from the cold, leave your camera and lenses in your kit bag for a few hours to allow them to slowly warm up to ambient temperature. This will avoid condensation which, in extreme cases, can cause to electronic components and cause mould in lenses.