The world of winter landscape photography
Landscape photography in the winter can be a terrible beast. Many things stand in the way of the perfect shot. Rain, wind, lack of colour, unbearable conditions and limited daylight. Despite this, some of the most beautiful landscape images can emerge from a winters day. However, being in the right place at the right time to capture a great composition is a massive challenge.
Planning is the key. It is the key to success generally with landscape photography, but is especially the case in the winter. The destination for your shoot should be planned around the weather. There is little point climbing a mountain in heavy wind and clouds. When you get to the top you will be disappointed and most likely a little uncomfortable.
A freezing winter scene with snow and ice will make a magical postcard scene. Sadly most winter days are not like this, especially in the UK and many other classically beautiful places. They are wet, windy, grey and cold. It makes landscape photography in the winter very tricky and requires some 'out of the box' thinking.
What are my options?
There are two good options. Firstly, you go minimalist and arty. Find a lone tree, a rock in a pool, a pier in the fog. Add some interest with a long exposure and these images can be beautiful and tell a story of the location. The story is vital. Get a feel for the place, try to understand it and translate that story into your image. Truly great landscape photographs are born from this type of process. This story can also be enhanced with a short description of your experience at the time and how you came to capture the image.
Secondly, you find somewhere with more interesting features. Cityscapes work well, or like in the video, somewhere with waterfalls. A good waterfall shot is often taken in woods. An overcast day with nice diffused light will result in a better final image.
Nature then takes the lead, to provide the weather that has been forecast, or pivot and do something completely different. The later presented itself to me on my recent shoot at Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales. My arrival at Ribblehead Viaduct was during some weather of sunny spells, conditions that often lead to a good sunset. However, seconds after I started walking the weather moved in.
Settling for a moody long exposure landscape shot was an acceptable second place. Still the disappointment remains. Winter landscape photography is hard. It requires dedication and an investment of time where the return is far from guaranteed. Failures will happen often. But on some days, when you put in the work and the stars align, you will be rewarded with a very special shot.
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All music in the video by Dan Phillipson - http://www.danphillipson.com