While clear skies and colourful spring blossoms, summer foliage or autumn leaves can provide rich, textured backdrops for your photographs, dull or high contrast winter landscapes can be more difficult to master, but most definitely not impossible. So we’ve asked Sue Tinsley, a fantastic freelance photographer and a regular visitor to Fforest Fields for the last 15 years to give us some quick tips on how to capture a great winter shot.
Before starting a guide to winter photography there is one main point that is important for any photographer whether starting out, an enthusiast or someone more advanced and this point is COMPOSITION. No photograph no matter how well taken will be anything special if no thought has gone into how the scene looks in your viewfinder. It will just be a snapshot. When scanning your surroundings look for a focal point, something to lead the eye to. A photograph that just shows a picture of everything and nothing can leave the viewer wondering what they are supposed to be looking at. A focal point can be anything from a person, a tree, a rock or a building. Your photograph will then have a meaning and a story to tell.
Tip 1 : Dawn or dusk
The best times for taking photos of landscapes is at dawn and at dusk when the sun isn’t overhead in the sky causing harsh light and shadows. This time is known as “the golden hour” to landscape photographers. It’s the chance to work with whatever the weather throws at you at this time. The light is ever changing but this can light up the landscape and make it come alive. The dawn or dusk tip is one that can be used all year round and not just during winter.
This photo was taken in Aperture mode which is great for landscapes and to get you out of the auto mode. On your camera you should see an A on the dial button, switch to that mode and it will choose the shutter speed you need for the aperture you have chosen. For sharp photos use between F8-F11. The above photo was F9 ISO 200.
Tip 2: Get out in all weather!
Some of the best winter photos are taken when the weather is changeable or the rain is hammering down.You will capture the ever changing light that flits across the landscape or on the campsite you can create abstract photos of rivulets of rain running down the tents and when the rain stops there is the opportunity of capturing little balls of raindrops hanging onto cobwebs, flowers or leaves. The inspiration is endless.
Frosted cobwebs always look great, as well as cobwebs with dew or raindrops clinging to it. Again taken in Aperture setting with an F11 stop for sharpness ad an ISO of 200. At the end of a stormy day is when the best sunlight can appear as shown lighting up the hill surrounding Fforestfields. This time I used the Shutter priority as I knew the light wouldn’t last long and wanted to take it at a faster speed.Settings were 1/80 F4.9 ISO 400.
Tip 3: Gear
Wear the right gear and take some spare batteries. Keep your camera cold and your batteries warm especially during severely cold spells in the snow. Nothing worse than your camera lens fogging up just as you are about to take a one off shot and batteries drain far quicker in cold weather so keep them warm in your pocket and they will last longer.
Tip 4: Snow scenes
Unfortunately I have no snow scenes of Fforestfields to show you as I am too much of a wimp to camp in the snow! However, for those who are hardy enough, once you have taken note of Tip 3 be aware of where you are walking as you will leave footprints behind possibly in the very place where you want to take a smooth photograph….. unless that is the intention! Snow can be difficult to take a photo of due to the brightness which can fool your camera metering and the snow can come out as gray or blue in colour. One way to overcome that problem is to change your White Balance setting on your camera. Put your white balance on shade, this will trick the camera into thinking the scene is warmer than blue and your snow should appear white.
The above photo taken at Windermere in the Lake District is shown as an example of getting the snow white by using the correct white balance. Settings are : Aperture priority, F10, ISO 200.
Tip 5: Sunrises and sunsets
The beauty about winter sunrises and sunsets is that you don’t have to get up early or stay up late to capture them. Check the times beforehand and and get yourself in position. The best colours aren’t as the sun is rising or as it goes down but about 20 minutes before and after. The colours change so quickly that you need to be ready and preferably with a tripod although you may get away without one. Use trees or people to create a silhouette, lakes are also great for reflecting the colours of the sky.
Settings : Shutter priority, ISO 400 F/16.
Hopefully these few pointers will encourage some of you to take up photography and in doing so to take a good look at your surroundings and all the possibilities around you that will create a fabulous image.
Susan Tinsley is from Scarisbrick just outside Southport in England. She is a freelance photographer who loves walking in the countryside and towns taking photos of anything that catches her eye. She particularly enjoys landscape photography and architecture. Take a look at her portfolio and her online shop and make sure you follow on Facebook. She also has a very interesting blog where you can pick up more tips and ticks.