Winter has firmly entrenched its grip on many parts of the country and abundant snow resides in many places. This is a signal to charge up your batteries, dress warmly, grab the camera and head out into the cold to capture some great snow mood shots. Snow provides a great advantage to photographers who seize the opportunity. It transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland and covers up much of what could be debris or a distraction in a photo. Leafless bushes become snow-encrusted points of interest, rock clutter becomes soft white pillows of shape and form, and the grand landscape takes on a tranquil and peaceful feeling impossible to be had any other season of the year.
Snow reflects the color of the sky. Get out early and stay out late to impart its warm tone. If there are colorful sunrise or sunset clouds, be sure to include them in the image. Get to your destination well before the sun rises to capture the magical glow of dawn on the horizon. With regards to sunset, stay out after the sun goes down to capture the glow at dusk. A bonus is the sun rises much later and sets earlier in the day in the winter. This allows you to sleep in or return from your shoot to eat dinner at a normal time. If you need to shoot during late morning or early afternoon, set the white balance to cloudy as the snow will reflect the deep blue color of a clear winter’s day and the image will be cool in tone. The slight yellow cast of the cloudy white balance offsets the cool blue tones of the reflected sky and results in a photograph with more warmth.
Winter sun is beneficial as it never gets high in the sky. Even though the tones during mid-day get cool in color, the angle of the light is conducive to good photography. Low-angle light creates shadows and highlights. Textures, shapes and forms are more dramatic. Low-angle, backlit snow makes it sparkle and gives the effect of tiny glistening diamonds. Sidelight brings out three dimensionality in your subjects. I encourage you to avoid front light as it makes everything look flat with no dimension. When the sun is strong, use contrast to your advantage and look for images with strong shadows and highlights. Keep in mind that too much will not allow the image sensor to record detail in all areas. Capture exposures for just the highlights, midtones and shadows and blend the best parts in Photoshop. HDR imaging works well if the contrast range is extreme.