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Winter Photography Tips by alexey ,  Feb 7, 2017
Partially frozen Niagara Falls.

Image by Aaron Harris.


This is the U.S. side of the Niagara Falls, January 8, 2014. The frigid air affected about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada. (REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

The polar vortex that has gripped the U.S. and Canada this week has led to some spectacular icy images. The latest come from Niagara Falls, which partially froze Tuesday when the temperature hit a record low of minus 2 degrees.

Aaron Harris, a photographer for Reuters, took several shots of the 167-foot frozen falls Wednesday. The ice formed on the U.S. side of the falls, which straddle the border with Canada.

While unusual, it's not the first time Niagara Falls has frozen. Photographs from the early- and mid-1900s archived at Niagara Falls Public Library appear to show frozen falls, though some experts have questioned their authenticity.

Winter is officially upon us here in the US and other countries that share the northern hemisphere. This frigid season can be harsh, but when the snow begins to fall, the beautiful sights produced can make us forget about the cold temperatures. Photographers that are willing to brave the winter weather are often rewarded with stunning results. Here we’ve collected some beautiful examples of winter photography that demonstrate this. Enjoy!


Niagara Falls National Park, January 2014

David Hall and Star the Reindeer cross I Street in downtown Anchorage while walking in a snowstorm on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)
As winter approaches in the northern hemisphere and the nights draw in, our thoughts turn to the beauty of ice and snow. Winter photography, especially in the colder parts of the world, is a specialized niche. Photographers have to take care of their cameras and guard against frostbite and hypothermia. They often venture into remote wilderness searching for the perfect winter landscape. Their reward is stunning imagery.
Find a pair of flexible gloves. I have found nice fleece gloves with a rubberized grip that work very well (fleece gloves need the grip because the fleece is too slippery on a camera). A store that sells hunting clothing will often have great gloves for photographers, too (although you might have to try out a camouflage style).
So the climate is changing and our weather is becoming not only more unpredictable but also more extreme. Some of the huge drifts of snow and freezing wonderlands are coaxing out photographers to record the beautiful country side in all its winter glory but as many of you will find it’s not without its problems.
Plan on using your digital camera outdoors for winter photography? Take a few tips from this photographer's summer assignment.

The purpose of white balance is to equalize colors based on the lighting conditions. Snow is very reflective and will cause your DSLR camera sensors to misread the white balance. This will usually cause snow to look Grey or Blue.

When this happens and there is not enough ambient light to correctly light the scene it is often helpful to overexpose by +0.3 to +1.0 EV for a better exposure value achieving a truer whiteness but taking care not to overexpose too much and lose any detail. How much of an increase you will need depends on a number of factors as all cameras have slightly different settings and what the light around you is doing. So have a play around.

Baby It's Cold Outside

The first thing you need to consider when shooting outdoors in the winter (or at least, in snow conditions) is the temperature. Sure, you're all bundled up, but what about your camera? The batteries in your digital camera don't react well to the cold, it reduces their output. That's why your mom always kept new batteries in the fridge, right? Keep your camera warm by carrying it under your coat, as close to your body's warmth as possible. And carry extra sets of batteries in a warm place too.

I kept two extra sets of batteries stashed in my pants pockets anytime I took my camera out. I'd rotate the batteries to give them a chance to warm up again. Otherwise, cold batteries act like dead batteries.

A Few Tips:1) There seems to be too many gray skies during the winter. Use a graduated filter to color the sky while leaving the foreground natural.2) When photographing wildlife in snow, the best way to reduce contrast is to use a fill flash. 3) Get prepared the night before and have everything at your fingertips. You become slower in cold weather and it is much harder to do the simplest movement with layers of clothing and gloves.4) The sunlight during the early morning and late afternoon offers unique photography opportunities due to the reflections and colors. Get an early start and you will be rewarded.5) Look for the contrasting lines and objects that appear when the snow does not completely cover the landscape. Place yourself in multiple positions to find the most dynamic photograph. Don't forget to add some color to the photograph as it will create a dramatic effect with the white snow. 6) Night photography can be accomplished from the light of the moon. The landscape lights up under the light of the moon and the reflection of the snow. 7) To reduce some sky in the photograph, position yourself at a higher location and look down. 8) Look for the birds. If it is snowing, use a slow shutter speed for the snow to add an interesting effect. Keep in mind, though, that it is a hard combination of wildlife and a slow shutter speed.
Never bring a cold camera directly into a warm space. This can cause very unwelcome condensation on—and much worse, inside—your camera. Put your camera inside a zipped camera bag or inside a plastic Zip-Loc or other sealable bag, then bring it inside to warm up.
The snow will look gray and everything else in the picture darker than the snow will look black. A general rule of thumb is to compensate for the brightness by opening up one or two stops or over-exposing, to let in more light. If your camera has automatic exposure compensation try both a +1 and +2 and see which works best. Another solution, which we teach in the NYI Complete Course in Professional Photography is to set exposure using a gray card.

Other things to think about…

  • Take out lots of batteries as they are used up much faster in freezing conditions. It can be useful to have them in a pocket close to your body heat.
  • Use camera cards better suited to extreme conditions for example Scan Disc extreme.
  • Don’t allow your lens cap to get wet and then place it back on your lens causing spots and condensation.
  • Sounds obvious but keep your camera and lens dry. Problems may occur when moving in and out of freezing conditions so allow your camera to warm up slowly. Even better if you need to start shooting again indoors then make sure you have a camera inside. Otherwise you may be stuck with a foggy lens while your camera warms up!
Knowing where the sun is in relation to your subject is important any time of day. Keep the sun at a right angle to your shot early or late in the day and behind you when it's high in the sky.
53 essential photo ideas for winter

Just because it’s miserable outside doesn’t mean you can’t take great winter photos. With a bit of imagination and perhaps some warm clothes, there is no reason your photography has to hibernate for the winter.

Winter offers some wonderful picture-taking opportunities, both outdoors and in, and we hope this list of 53 photo ideas inspires you to crawl out from under your duvet. Snow, rain and frost make great subjects, and the constantly changing light can be both a challenge and a revelation.

winter photo tips

Photo captured by Denis Krivoy (Click Image to See More From Denis Krivoy)


As the sun "travels across the sky" (which it does more quickly during the shorter days of winter), the lighting direction changes relative to landscape features. So, schedule permitting, you should check out potential subjects first thing in the morning, in midmorning, around noon, in midafternoon, in late afternoon, and around sunset to see how they look in the different lighting. Not only does the lighting direction change throughout the day, but the color changes as well, from cool before sunrise to warm just after sunrise to neutral at midday to warmer near sunset to cooler after sunset. The combination of different lighting angles and different lighting colors can make a subject look quite different as the Earth does its daily rotation. So shoot a frame (or more) throughout the day, and you'll get some interesting shots.Photo by Lynne Eodice

Snow is very pretty, but photographically a little snow goes a long way. You can add interest and color to snow shots simply by including a colorful object or two in your composition. The colorful object can be incidental, or the main subject of the photo. Keep your eyes peeled for colorful items to include in your snow pictures.Photo by Ron Leach

Clear winter days are generally pristine compared to "clear" summer days, as the winter storms temporarily remove pollution particles from atmosphere, and the cooler unstable winter air tends to provide better visibility than summer's warmer stable layers. The result is better photographic conditions for scenic and aerial photography, and any shots of distant subjects.Photo by Mike Stensvold
Your photos can often become 50 percent better simply by returning to shoot the same setting on another day, or at a different time on the same day. If you're like me, the inspiration to take a photo often happens spontaneously. There's something about a setting, such as a backyard garden, that instantly says, "Snap a picture!" But Allen points out that such a scene might become even more photo-worthy when the light is better at a different time of day. Shoot at dawn or dusk.
Opt for your camera's highest image quality setting. Many compact digital cameras these days give you an option to record images in various levels of image quality: standard, large, fine, and superfine. (Your camera may use different words for similar functions.)
How To: The snow reflection goes from forty to fifty percent with dirty snow, up to eighty to ninety percent with fresh fallen snow and even higher reflection with wet, fresh fallen snow.1) If the freshly fallen snow is pure white, meter the pure white area only with spot-metering. There will not be any detail in the snow. Open up 2 stops.2) If the snow is side lit and you see a lot of detail in the snow, then the snow is not pure white. Pure white has no detail. Textured snow is 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 stops lighter. If you open up to 2 stops, your photograph will be too light.3) If the day is sunny and the snow is in shadows, it can vary up to 1 stop.4) If the day is overcast, meter the snow and open up 2 1/2 stops.
Photograph snow and ice at sunrise and sunset. Winter sunsets are early and often have great color. Both sunrise and sunset color reflects in the snow and ice.
The rule of thumb is on sunny days you could be working with an ISO of 100 to 200; on cloudy days, 200 to 400; and when it's twilight, 400 to 800. Don't go more than 800, or else you'll you get grain in the film or noise in the digital file. In other words, your photos will look odd
Sun Comes Up, Sun Goes Down . . . If you're not an early riser, or you like to get to bed early, winter is your season for sunrises and sunsets. The sun rises nearly three hours later, and sets nearly three hours earlier, in mid-winter than it does in mid-summer. So you can sleep in and still catch those neat things that often happen around sunrise (such as the alpenglow on pre-sunrise lenticular clouds shown here)—or photograph the sunset and still have time to go out for dinner and a movie. You can also capture those sunsets over picturesque parklands that close at 5 or 6 p.m. (which is well before sunset in mid-summer).
The key is to have sunlight come in from an angle, says Allen. "Most people would think that their best position as the photographer is always having the sun behind them, but not in this situation. Let's say, we're looking south, and the sun is coming from the east: That would be in an ideal position to get the snow looking realistic and not a blank, texture-less white. Alternatively, if you're facing into the west as the sun sets, you'll get your scene backlit by having sun in your pic. That could also make for a nice effect."

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