I’ve been getting plenty of ski days in with the new snow of late, so I decided it was time to put the skis away for a couple of days and do my best to capture winter along the Wasatch Front (and Back). There is something about shooting winter scenics that is strangely more satisfying than other times of the year. Perhaps it’s the frosty temps, or maybe the difficulty posed in getting to and fro. Whatever it is, I have missed it.
I have ventured out to the Heber Valley the past couple of mornings to shoot sunrises that haven’t failed to impress. This morning was a long haul on snowshoes, but well worth it. As the sun rose, the peaks glowed pink and I clicked away. I was frustrated by mist that seemed to grow strongest when the light was best. It seems that at times, what can go wrong, will. It’s in these cicrumstances that you must be resourceful as a photographer and quickly find a plan B. Frustrated that I couldn’t shoot what I had hoped to, I began looking around and was immediately drawn to an entirely different image. This BW image of snow pillows and treetops in the mist is the resulting image. To think, I never would have bothered to look over my shoulder if I hadn’t been forced to.
Below are a couple of tips for shooting winter landscapes. Some of these seem pretty fundamental, but it never hurts to clear out the summer cobwebs in the brain.
1. Start early–real early. It takes longer to get places in the snow. Whether you’re driving, hiking, skiing or otherwise, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Believe me, you’ll need it.
2. If you’re hiking, take two pair of gloves. A thicker pair for the hike, and a thinner, windproof pair (which won’t be soaked with sweat) to shoot in. It’s much easier to hold filters and handle your equipment without the bulk of a burly glove.
3. Layer up. Dress in non-cotton layers so you can adapt to fluctuating temperatures. I always strip off the heavy, insulated jackets when I’m hiking to avoid overheating. When I stop to setup for a sunrise shoot, the down jacket goes on.
4. Wear a beanie. Lots of body heat escapes through your noggin.
5. Have everything as dialed as possible before shooting. This means laying out clothing the night before, placing everything neatly in your pack, etc. When it gets cold, our brains tend to get a bit cluttered. The easier you make it on yourself, the more likely you are to come home with some keepers.
6. Use your histogram to make sure your are properly exposing snow. Typically, you will have to overexpose 1/2 to 1 1/2 stops to accurately expose snow.
7. Don’t forget to hydrate. Just cause it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink water.
8. Perhaps the most important one of all–be there for the magic light. There is somewhat of a dearth of quality winter scenic shots, due largely in part to the fact that many people just can’t make themselves get up and out the door when it’s dark and cold. Commit to capturing the good light, and you’ll catch the fever.