No More Winter blues
With much of the country in the grip of winter, here are some hints and tips for taking better pictures this season.
Winter light is usually softer than summer light, affording the photographer better opportunities for outdoor portraits on more pleasant days. In the late afternoon, the light is not only diffused, but often beautiful and warm in colour, making it ideal for flattering portraits.
Don’t be put off by the cloudy skies that often precede or follow a storm. In fact, you should use them to your advantage! Overcast skies add a dramatic element to your landscapes and provide a striking background. In this light, you will be able to record greater detail in both the highlight and shadow areas of your print or slide. To add interest to grey winter skies, consider buying a Cokin graduated filter that will enhance or add detail to cloudy skies without affecting the foreground. Grey graduated filters will appear more natural in winter landscape photographs, but coloured graduated filters like Tobacco can also be effective, provided they’re used discreetly.
The opportunity to photograph lightning often presents itself in winter months. Set yourself up in a safe location and put the camera firmly on a tripod. Photograph at night and set your camera on “B” with a wide-angle lens set at full aperture and pointed at the most active part of the sky. Be sure to include some foreground context such as a tree or building, to create interest.
Black and White
If there is little colour in the landscape, try shooting in black and white. Winter affords the photographer the ideal opportunity to break away from everyday colour photography and learn an entirely new way of viewing.
Learn to see more detail in your landscapes. Often the strength of winter pictures can be found in the hard, geometric lines provided by bare trees and rocks or the detail of frosted leaves, wet flowers and water droplets on leaves. Winter light is soft and detail enhancing and thus ideal for images that reveal texture. Search for photo opportunities and designs that are made possible by these elements and keep them simple. Perhaps use a wide-angle lens and move in close to your subject to create sweeping, dynamic compositions and strong foreground interest. Compose your picture using leading lines that draw the eye through the entire frame.
You can occasionally improve your winter pictures through the use of filters. An 81A, B or C filter will add warmth to an otherwise cold blue picture. Used in conjunction with graduated filters, you can beautifully enhance winter landscapes. For mist and fog effects, breathe lightly on the filter screwed to the front of your lens and wait as it dissipates to give you the mist effect you want. Depending on the prevailing light, a polarising filter can be used to saturate colours and clarify detail. Polarising filters will also deepen the blue in your skies on the right kind of day. Black and white photography requires an entirely different range of filters. A yellow filter will boost contrast and increase detail in both the landscape and the sky. For more dramatic contrast, use an orange or even a red filter.
At very low temperatures all batteries lose power and while extremely low temperatures are not usual in Australian winters, they are not unheard of – especially in higher elevations and skiing regions. When in these areas, keep the camera, flash and the batteries as warm as possible, carrying them under your coat, or close to your body. Always bringing spare batteries with you when you venture out on a winter shoot and remember to keep them warm too!