10 Top Tips for shooting Winter Landscapes

Nikon Ambassador Jeremy Walker shares his top tips for taking beautiful landscape images in the winter months.

1. Be prepared. Before you even think about venturing out doors prepare yourself for the wintry conditions. Dress appropriately for the time of year and use extra layers of clothing for warmth and make sure you have a hat and gloves with you. Keeping your feet warm will be essential so a good pair of thermally insulated boots will be essential. If you get cold you will not be able to concentrate on your photography and you will not get the results you want.

2. Get your camera kit ready for the winter. Make sure the camera battery is fully charged the night before and carry a spare if you have one in a pocket close to your body to keep it warm. The cold weather will shorten battery life especially if you review your images on the camera monitor too much.

3. Allow extra time for shooting winter landscapes. Everything you do will take longer in winter from getting the car defrosted to travelling to a location. Road conditions may not be perfect and you will have to allow for ice, snow and other motorists who will not be used to driving in winter conditions. Once you are at your destination you will have to allow extra time to walk to your chosen location as again winter conditions will slow you up. In winter it is very easy to underestimate how much longer everything takes.

4. Use the light to your advantage. Normally landscape photographers are looking to use the light at the beginning and end of the day, sunrise and sunset. However in winter the sun will be low in the sky all day and will be very useable. Look to have the sun at right angles to you and use it to bring out the textures and detail of a landscape or shoot into the light to pick up the sparkling snow and ice crystals, or have backlit subjects with long dramatic shadows coming toward the lens.

5. As well as the grand landscape look for details, close-up images and 'micro landscapes'. A coating of frost on a normal everyday object can visually transform it. A lens such as the NIKKOR 105mm is ideal but most modern focus close enough to get a very different and more intimate view of the world. If you can't focus as closely as you would like think about cropping the image afterwards, you do not have to be confined by the shape of the viewfinder.

6. A snow or frost covered landscape can be very dull without a splash of colour or. Try and isolate a single colour or group of colours within your composition to help tell the story or lead the eye to the main subject matter. Keep the image simple with clean lines, shapes and silhouettes, often in a winter landscape less is more, you do not have to pack everything and his dog into a shot.

7. If a colour image is not working try and visualise your image as a black and white one. Set the camera to monochrome and use shape and texture to help convey the feel mood and drama of the image. Look for strong bold lines and high contrast subjects that are simple and elegant but still convey the feeling of winter.

8. A winter landscape with a large amount of space in it can often look lifeless and lack a sense of scale. Try using people in your image to give the viewer an idea of the scale of the landscape. If you are out with a friend get them to stand in the image, preferably wearing a brightly coloured coat or jacket to give the image a focal point and the added scale. It doesn't have to be a person, anything with a known size, a church spire for example will help show the size of the landscape and help tell the story.

9. Use the white balance in the camera or in post production to control the overall colour of the image. A snowy scene on a sunny day with clear blue skies will have the snow turning blue in the shadows, not the crisp white you would expect of snow. Use the cameras white balance manually to help neutralise this blue hue by increasing the white balance to about 8500K. Remember to reset the white balance afterwards or you may find your next shots being too orange!

10. If you are going to be out all day carry high energy snacks (an excuse to carry chocolate!) and a flask with a hot beverage. There is absolutely no point being out at a great location when it is frosty and snowy and not enjoying yourself because you are cold and hungry. Keep warm and be prepared. Carry a fully charged phone and if you are venturing slightly further afield tell some one where you are going just in case the weather closes in and you have slightly more snow than you bargained for. Be prepared, be safe and enjoy those snowy frosty winter days.


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