11 January, 2018

Seeking Adventure: winter photography

Winter photography is the exercise of your own creative will over the logistical hurdles Mother Nature throws at you. To ensure that you're able to clear those hurdles, let's take care of your gear first. The technical logistics of winter photography are similar to the same hurdles your body is faced with: survival. Your batteries won't want to work; your camera's magnificently complicated electronics are going to be put in harm's way; rapidly changing temperatures will create condensation; and melting snow will attempt to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable exterior of your camera. But don't let that stop you from documenting your experiences. Here are a few tips to ensure success on your next adventure into a winter wonderland.

Your body

Before we even get into hardware, the first thing we need to address when venturing out into the elements is your body. How you dress can be the difference between an hours-long adventure in falling snow and a quick retreat to the shelter of your home after a mere twenty minutes. Layering up is key here, so don't forget that you need to balance protection from the cold/rain/snow with breathability so you don't become a humid mess under your clothes.


Batteries hate the cold. I mean hate! Not only do you need to carry extra batteries, you need to keep those batteries warm. If you've got an iPhone, keep it warm and carry extra energy in the form of a Mophie. Even then you'll find that the minute you bring it out of your pocket it shuts down. However, you can keep it warm by wapping it in a sock and by using the volume control on your ear buds, if you can still find them, as the shutter release.

Weather sealing

Say you are getting fired up about photography, and you're considering purchasing a new camera. Well, you might want to consider getting a camera that is 'weather sealed'. Many companies will go to great lengths to ensure that the camera has gaskets and seals to prevent moisture from leaking in. However, if your camera is weather sealed, you'll want to ensure your lens is also weather sealed. The camera I used to photograph our snowshoe adventure, was my Fuji X-T1 paired with a Fuji 18-135. Both are weather sealed and survived the environmental abuse I put them through that day. If your camera is weather sealed, make sure it stays sealed during your expedition. Don't open card slots, change lenses, etc. Do all that before you start your ride. If you have to swap the battery, I get that, just make sure you've dried the seal around the battery door.


Rapidly changing temperatures will wreak havoc on your camera in the form of condensation. The solution is simple: don't change temperatures. Once your camera is out of the car, or your jersey pocket, make sure it stays there. You'll be tempted to insulate it and hide it in a warm safe place. Don't do it! Just ride with it over your shoulder where it's easy to access. If you have to put it back in the car, put it in the trunk. If you're coming back from a cold ride, let it acclimate in your garage first.

The creativity of winter

Now that we've taken care of the logistics of winter photography, let's explore what really matters: creativity. Winter affords us unique opportunities as it transforms the everyday into extraordinary landscapes covered in snow and ice. One way I like to approach winter landscapes is to pay attention to shapes and tones. Because we are are working in a nearly monochromatic environment, the world presents itself in fresh new abstractions.

Color contrast

In this monochromatic world a fresh snowfall offers, it's also a good idea to explore elements of contrast; not only in tone, but in color as well. Whether it's an area of deep shadows or a bright splash of color, any type of contrast will clearly define the subject of your photograph.

Tonal contrast

If mother nature's attempt at creating a monochromatic world isn't enough, you can always push it a bit further with your own black & white photo processing. Something I tend to do with my own black & white winter photography is craft very high contrast scenes by brightening the highlights and darkening the shadows.

Getting out there

I hope you've enjoyed this look at the logistics and creative opportunities winter photography provides us. The most important tip is simply to get out there, embrace the adventure and tell your own story.