In Plain Light 12.17 – The Winter Issue: Winter Landscape Photography

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In this issue:

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Trondheim, NorwayLet it snow • Trondheim, Norway

It is December, winter is coming or already there, and with it a different landscape opens up before your eyes—and your camera lens.

Depending on your location and mood, the weather may seem glorious or appalling, but opportunities for great landscape photos are still plentiful, even – or especially? – when conditions seem far from perfect.

On the other hand, when the sun does show up, the quality of light is often pure magic. In effect, you can experience the golden hour all day long.

While basic rules for getting the best results out of your camera are still the same as during the warmer months, winter photography requires just a bit more preparation.

How to take better winter landscape photos

Keep yourself warm. This may sound like your mum's heartfelt appeal, but being comfortable is essential for taking great images. Cover your head, wear several insulating layers, and protect your hands.

For the latter, thin fingerless woollen gloves worn underneath warm mittens, or a mittens-gloves combo with a retractable finger pouch, are ideal.

Keep your camera ready. Always carry spare batteries with you, and store them in an inner pocket close to your body. Batteries are extremely sensitive to the cold, and tend to discharge faster than you can imagine.

Make it your habit to recharge all your assets as soon as the opportunity arises—that is, whenever you are back indoors.

Protect your gear. Pay attention to your camera. Place it in a bag or your pocket until you need it, and return it back in after taking a shot. Be especially careful when it snows. Consider using a plastic bag opened on both ends for the cover when photographing.

When coming inside from the outdoors, carry the camera in a bag to prevent surrounding warm air from condensing on its surface or inner parts.

Choose your subject. You won't face any difficulties searching for a motif. Anything worth being photographed during the summer is not less attractive in the winter cold, just different.

Covered with snow, both under the blazing – by winter standards – sun and heavy clouds, the familiar landscape transforms into something else, magical or mystical, mellow or menacing, merry or moody: choose your angle and compose accordingly.

Expose wisely. Wide, bright areas, like snow fields [and sand beaches], are prone to mock your camera's exposure. Be sure to check your results and adjust by applying manual compensation.

Your camera will probably tend to underexpose when set to automatic. While the usual advice would be to compensate in the opposite direction, say, by +1 to +1.5 EV, I would rather recommend to boost the effect by further underexposing, especially in sunny weather.

This technique will result in a bluish tint to the snow, a milder, warmer rendering of the sunlight, and deeper, colder shadows at the same time—all attributes of a typical winter mood.

Highlands of Iceland in winterAscent • To Langjökull in winter, Iceland

10 winter landscapes to get inspired

Preparing this issue, I searched my archive for relevant sample images and was surprised to find quite a few—my winter ventures seem to have escaped me.

These 10 winter landscape photos were taken from January to March between Switzerland and Greenland, at different times and in different weather and lighting conditions.

Where in the world…
(drag the map to see locations in Greenland and Germany—Switzerland is off the map)

They allow for a good overview of what is possible, photography-wise, in the coming months—if you are willing to leave the house.

Click on the Slideshow button to your left and let the images open in a full-screen gallery.

In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.

Truman Capote, Miriam

Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.

Mary Oliver, American poet

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

One • Bavarian Forest NP, Germany

It is growing cold… What whiteness boasts that sun that comes into this wood!

Roman Payne, The Wanderess

Trollfjord • Lofoten Islands, Norway

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Andrew Wyeth, American painter

S • Rhaetian Railway to Arosa, Grisons, Switzerland

All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white… It's late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.

Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs

Equinox • Ilulissat, West Greenland

March came in that winter… bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine.

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring… They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.

Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter

Distant blizzardSkyfall • Off Måsøya island, North Norway

By March, the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake into itself again.

Not that year.

Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost Giants

“…if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn't feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It's worth being cold for that.

Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

The last quote

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Neil Gaiman

Season's Greetings and a very Happy New Year to you and yours!


If the winter season is not your scene at all, find some solace in

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

Hang in there, it will be over soon enough!

Tags: #inplainlight #amazingplaces #winterlandscapes #getinspired

J.'s World
Visit my online gallery with many more winter landscape photos, from these journeys and others as well: German Edge (February 2016), Arctic Arc (March 2015), Winter Moselle (New Year 2015), Equinox (March 2014), Iceland (New Year 2013), Switzerland (New Year 2012), Norway (March 2011).
Own a print!
Have you been good this year? Treat yourself and your loved ones to a special gift! Pick your favourite image and design your very personal fine art edition, with a selection of framing options and free size choice. (A hint: some of the images from this page are also available to order. Click on their previews to be forwarded to the quote form.)
Goodreads quotes
Looking for words? Whatever the topic, chances are, someone already raised it. Search for a suitable quote by keyword or author. While on the site, join the world's largest community of readers to discuss books, receive recommendations, make discoveries, and see what others are reading.

Previous issue

11.17 – The sea issue: Fine art seascape photography
As November closes in, we take Ishmael's, of Moby Dick, advice and get to sea as soon as we can, led by some highly inspirational examples.

Following issue

01.18 – The 2017 review issue
2017 is over but not yet forgotten. To make it stay this way a bit longer, find here the year in review—through archived blog entries.

Other photography tips

Landscape photography composition tips
Your mastery of photography composition is what ultimately makes your images. Read here how to excel at it in order to engage your viewers!
Black & white landscape photography
Black-and-white photography is very much alive, and landscapes in black and white still look as stunning as in Ansel Adams's day. Be sure to check the article if you'd like to try your hand at this classic and fascinating technique.
Landscape photography equipment essentials
Looking for a new camera or another piece of gear? Find answers to your questions, along with some advice and recommendations!
Fine art photography prints
And now for something completely different… My thoughts and advice on choosing and using fine art photography prints.
How to photograph waterfalls
If your waterfall images are not up to the expectations of your friends, nor to your own satisfaction, try these easy to follow tips to make them shine!
Marketing fine art photography
This newsletter issue is about creating your brand and marketing your work, told by those who've been there and done exactly that.
What is legal to photograph outdoors
Ever thought about copyright laws having two sides? Your photography can violate them, too. Be sure to know what to photograph, where without getting into trouble.
How to use Photoshop
In a dedicated newsletter issue, join me as I show how I use Photoshop to edit my images, and learn some funny facts about the application while at it.
Wildlife photography tips
No purchase necessary: Learn how to photograph wildlife for best possible results with your usual equipment.
Art seascapes
As November closes in, we take Ishmael's, of Moby Dick, advice and get to sea as soon as we can, led by some highly inspirational examples.
Winter landscape photography tips
"Winter landscape" may not sound as exciting as, say, "summer beach", not to everybody, for sure. But if it does to you, there is much to discover outdoors in this time of the year, too. Dress warmly and come on outside!
Best Adobe Photoshop tips
We recall some Photoshop basics, like layers, and proceed with more advanced topics, like masks, selective channel editing, converting colour to black and white, and output sharpening.
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