5 Important Tips for Successful Winter Landscape Images

Dec 29, 2020
Tips for Successful Winter Landscape Images

Wintery landscape scenes hold stunning beauty. The Canadian Rockies recently experienced heavy snowfall and currently looks like a scene out of a winter wonderland picture book. 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 thoughts of only good light on our minds, but before you venture off into the great outdoors and while you are out immersed in nature, keep in mind the tips below as they will help with your winter landscape image 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. However, one thing that I know I must be and meticulously ensure is that I am 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 in the forefront of your mind. No image is worth the risk of bodily harm or worse. 

ISO 100, 14mm, f16, 20sec

2. Slow down and observe 

After the efforts to pack up my winter and safety gear and photography equipment, I find that I get so excited that I want to run into a landscape and explore all the winter's intricate designs once I arrive at a location. However, don't let your excitement take over. Always slow down and consider how you'd like to photograph a scene before rushing in. If you trample an area with your snowshoes or walk over ice detail with ice cleats, you could ruin creative potentials. Stand back and thoughtfully evaluate a scene from different angles and refrain from moving into a location and setting up your gear until you are certain that where you tread will not interfere with your final composition.  

ISO 100, 16mm, f11, 1/10sec

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 even frozen over in some cases. Keeping safety in mind, especially around the ice, permit yourself some extra time to explore and look for unique winter locations and features that are only possible during the winter season. 

ISO 31, 26mm, f11, 8sec 

4. Look for details underneath your feet

I love a sweeping grande landscape scene as much as the next photographer, but this winter, I'm making a much more conscious effect to capture the incredible artwork that only nature can create. It's a pleasant option on days when skies are clear or when the light is not quite right for a specific scene. Winter creates spectacular details that are hiding underneath your feet, so don't forget to look down. Finding a creative way to use light or capture winter details will result in your learning and growth as a photographer, as you're forced to step away from the comfort of those wide-angle views and think in a different creative manner.  

ISO 200, 16mm, f11, 1/250SS 

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 a touch as well, and even try getting down close to your foreground instead of shooting from a higher angle. Don't be afraid to try something new, which will certainly result in you capturing successful winter images. 


ISO 80, 16mm, f11, 30sec

Setting yourself up for a successful landscape photography outing requires a little bit of planning. Don's skip this step, as it's important to be comfortable and safe when immersed in nature. Then try and hold yourself back from rushing into a potential scene. Stand back and evaluate the composition and creative potential before imprinting the snow with footprints. Also, remember to go exploring! Winter offers possibilities for landscape perspectives that are not always possible during warmer months when rivers are flowing, and vegetation is in full bloom. Don't ignore winter details either. There's beauty underfoot! Open yourself up to thinking creatively as you capture winter this season. Remember that a simple change in tripod height or image orientation can offer a fresh perspective and highlight winter elements within a landscape capture. Most importantly, never forget to enjoy the experience that is inherent within landscape photography.