Snow can transform a nice, familiar landscape into something spectacular, or even become a feature itself. Here, Mark Hamblin reveals how to take wonderful photos this winter.

Lets face it, we dont deal well with snow in the UK, and the slightest covering of the white stuff sends the country into meltdown. Yet photographers cant get enough of it, and like to dash around in a state of mild panic, shooting everything in sight before it all disappears. The often - transient nature of snow means that a swift, well - planned approach is required to make best use of it Weather forecasting is pretty accurate these days, so this is generally the first warning that snow is on its way. Start thinking about some of your favourite local landscape views that would work well in snowy conditions, and compile a shortlist of places you can get to easily

If you live somewhere that rarely gets a decent dumping of snow, then plan to take a winter trip to Scotland, Wales or northern England for stunning snowcapped mountains and ice - fringed lochs and lakes. Also consider photographing family and friends having fun in the snow.

Snowball fights, sledging and skiing are all great for dynamic action shots.

The three key elements to successful snow shots are spot - on composition, accurate exposure and suitable lighting. Simple, uncomplicated images often work best, using compositional elements such as trees, fence lines and hedgerows to frame the picture and lead the viewer into the landscape. Alternatively, striking graphic images can be created using a single element such as a lone tree or building placed on the thirds on a white canvas of snow.


Exposure of your images can be worrying when snapping snow scenes, so take care. Automatic metering can lead to pictures that are too dark, because the camera is programmed to usually record everything as a midtone, turning white snow grey. To make sure it remains white, use some positive exposure compensation to add more light to your pictures. Its equally easy to blow out the white bits in bright light, so make sure you activate the highlight alert function on your cameras LCD. Those parts of the picture where detail has been lost will blink, in which case you should use a shorter exposure and re - check the histogram.

One of the great things about snow photography is that the winter sun creates some magical lighting conditions, adding a warm feel to your images - especially those taken early and late in the day. The low angle of the sun is perfect for revealing texture in the snow and adding depth to your pictures. The snow also acts as a giant reflector, bouncing light back into areas of shadow and onto peoples faces, so its perfect for outdoor portraits.

Often the light that follows snowfall has an extra clarity as a result of the cold, crisp conditions. The air is much clearer than it is in summer, and as a result your images will have more vibrancy and intensity, with enhanced detail - especially in distant subjects such as far - off hills and mountains. This combination of clear conditions and warm sunlight is a winning cocktail that will elevate your snowy photographs from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Finally, take care when out in the snow and dress appropriately, with good sturdy boots and warm, waterproof outer layers. The cold weather is also a great excuse to pack a flask of hot chocolate and leftover Christmas cake - for essential energy, of course!

Top tips...


Plan ahead

Be well prepared for when the snow arrives, with a clear idea of what and where youre going to photograph. Have some nearby locations in mind that you can walk to if necessary, and get out as early as you can to capture virgin snow before it gets ruined by footprints.

Expose properly

Expose correctly for snow under strong sunlight, and skies in your photos will turn a deeper blue than they appear in real life, which looks great. But avoid the temptation to fit a polarising filter, because this can turn the sky almost black.

Shoot snow while its still falling

Try taking photos while snow is falling, using a slow shutter speed of around 1/15 sec to capture the snowflakes as long streaks. Wildlife looks great photographed this way, too. If possible, set up against a darker background to make the snow streaks stand out.

Capture colourful skies at dusk and dawn

The blue and purple hues in the sky that precede sunrise and follow sunset provide a cool feel to snow scenes that is perfect for conveying the frigid nature of winter. These chilly, emotive colours require a long exposure to capture well, so use a tripod and cable release.

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