Winter landscape photography tips

Capture Winter Like a Pro

Dec 20, 2022

Winter has officially arrived, and the less-than-humane temperatures here in the Canadian Rockies confirm that! As landscape photographers, we all know that those wintery landscape scenes hold stunning beauty. Scenes heavy with frozen details, sparkly untouched snow and trees kissed by winter's frost are always a photographer's dream. Sometimes the beauty of it all has us rushing off into nature with only thoughts about fluffy snow and good light on our minds, but before you venture out into the great outdoors, keep in mind the tips below, as they will help you photograph winter with success.  

1. Always be prepared

A fresh layer of snow has the mountains calling my name as much as it does the next landscape photographer. Winter holds so much beauty that I can hardly wait to hop in my truck and head out into the Canadian Rockies' backcountry playground. First, however, I must be meticulously prepared. The landscape environment within the Canadian Rockies requires that I check avalanche, weather and road reports, pack adequate winter clothing, including chemical or electric hand and feet warmers, outerwear, including multiples like snow gear and gloves in case those items get wet and bring along with me additional winter gear like snowshoes, so I don't sink into snow up to my neck, a shovel and plenty of food and warm tea. As beautiful as landscape photography can be, it's imperative to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. Always keep safety at the forefront of your mind. No image is worth the risk of bodily harm or worse. 

2. Slow down and observe 

After the efforts to pack up my winter, safety and photography equipment, I find that once I finally arrive at a location, all I want to do is run off into the setting. However, don't let your excitement take over. Before rushing in, always slow down and consider how you'd like to photograph a scene. You could ruin creative potential if you trample an area with snowshoes or walk over frosty details with ice cleats. Stand back and thoughtfully evaluate a scene from different angles before moving into a location and setting up your camera so that you do not tread on or interfere with your final composition.  

ISO 50, 14mm, f11, 13 seconds

3. Leave extra time to explore 

Winter often allows a landscape photographer to explore impassable areas that grow thick with vegetation during the summer months or are filled with rushing rivers. Ground cover is resting beneath heaps of snow, and rivers have slowed to a trickle or are frozen. Keeping safety in mind, especially around the ice, permit yourself some extra time to explore and look for unique locations and features that are only possible during the winter season. 

4. Look for details 

I love a sweeping grande landscape scene as much as the next photographer, but narrowing your viewpoint can result in the opportunity to capture the more intimate artwork that only winter can create. When capturing smaller scenes, think about a creative way to use light. Smaller scenes can be captured during those full-sun days!

5. Try a vertical image

The go-to orientation for a landscape image is, of course, landscape. However, don't be afraid to capture a vertical orientation, especially during the winter, as this can showcase icy sculpted elements. Try angling your camera down and even get close to your foreground instead of shooting from a higher angle. Don't be afraid to try something new, which will undoubtedly result in you capturing successful winter images. 

                ISO 100, 35mm, f10, 1/60 sec

Winter scenes can change daily and open up possibilities and perspectives that are not always possible during warmer months. This winter, incorporate the above tips as you enjoy the experiences of winter landscape photography. 


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