Winter can be a great time to get out and do some shooting, but it comes with challenges (and opportunities) that you won’t find in any other season. Here are some thoughts that might help improve your winter-shooting experience.
Photo Tip 1 - Winter's Cold. Dress for it!
This may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. You can't enjoy an outdoor photo adventure if you're cold and miserable. Here's a quick run-down of some things to consider;
Photo Tip 2 - I Need More Power!
Last winter I was out shooting with my Olympus OMD E-M1 for over three hours in -20 C temperatures and the battery kept its charge for the whole time. I was impressed. Even so, I always keep an extra battery in my pocket where my body heat can keep it warm.
Speaking of energy, bring along a nutritious snack and warm drink to provide a bit of fuel for you. With the layered clothing you may end up sweating a bit more than you think.
Photo Tip 3 - Fight Fogging Up
Lenses will fog up when going from a cold area to a warmer one with higher humidity. In the winter your lens is unlikely to fog up while shooting outdoors. The problem occurs when you return to your warm car or other interior with higher humidity. Place the lens cap back on the lens and return the camera to your camera bag before you enter a warmer space.
Speaking of lens caps, here’s a simple tip that can definitely save some frustration. If you pocket your lens cap while shooting like I do, turn it so that the inside surface of the cap is facing away from your body. This will prevent the moisture from your sweat accumulating on it and condensing on your lens when you replace the lens cap.
Photo Tip 4 - Embrace the Foul Weather
Freezing rain and snowstorms do not make for good driving conditions, but they can provide the setting for some great photographs. Heavy snow can isolate your subject by eliminating distractions in the distance while ice-coated branches can refract sunlight in interesting ways. With the weather sealing on the E-M1 and E-M5 II, I shoot in conditions that I would never consider doing with other cameras.
Photo Tip 5 - Bring Extra Lens Cloths
As mentioned I'm often out shooting in less than ideal weather conditions - rain, snow or spray from waves often ends up on my front lens element. I keep several lens cloths handy. Once a lens cloth is damp it is practically useless for cleaning off your lens. Just remember to dry them fully once you return home.
Now that the planning is done, let's get out and shoot!
Photo Tip 6 - Footprints in the Snow
I love getting out after a fresh blanket of snow has fallen. But, think carefully about your composition as you approach your subject. Nothing can ruin that blanket more than your own footprints. Start by shooting wide and then moving closer to your subject to avoid disturbing the snow. If you want to open up even more opportunities invest in a good pair of snowshoes to make easier work of trudging through deep snow.
Photo Tip 7 - Use the Histogram
If you have ever been disappointed with the white snow you see turning grey in your photos, you are not alone. It is your camera’s natural tendency to tone down bright areas. Bring back those whites by using the built-in histogram. By dialing up the exposure you can eliminate the greys. Just don’t overdo it or you will blow out those highlights completely. The ergonomics of the OMD line of cameras makes exposure compensation a snap and the electronic viewfinder allows for quick adjustments without ever taking your eye off the histogram and scene you are photographing.
Photo Tip 8 - Capture the Colour
Winter may not be considered a colourful season, but some of the best sunrises and sunsets occur at this time of the year. Get out early and stay out late to capture some of that amazing colour. Scout around for a great point of interest ahead of time, and when that sunset presents itself you will be ready.
Photo Tip 9 - Try Shooting Macro
We typically think of shooting macro in our gardens, but the ice and frost can make for some very interesting subjects. Move around these natural ice sculptures to see how the light refracts from different angles. I use both the Olympus 60mm macro lens and a good telephoto lens like 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO or new M.Zuiko 300mm f/4.0 (because of the incredibly close focusing distance). The Tough TG-4 and optional ring light can also allow you to capture the incredible details in snowflakes.
Photo Tip 10 - Winter Abstracts
The harsh shadows, bare branches and intense contrasts can make for some interesting natural abstractions. Explore the natural patterns that present themselves.
Here is a small collection of some of my favourite winter shots.
As a child I had a real love affair with winter. I enjoyed skiing, sliding, and snowball fights. Through most of my adults years however, winter just had to be tolerated. Now, as an enthusiastic photographer, winter has regained an important place in my life. Embrace it and get shooting!
Peter Baumgarten is a professional photographer and educator. He is also an Olympus Visionary and NiSi Official Photographer.