Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography

Let It Snow

If it sounds borderline insane to appreciate the benefits of photography in cold and snowy conditions, I understand. Making quality images is hard enough when the weather is perfect.

Traverse City, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

Once the temperature descends to freezing and below, operating a camera can present challenges: batteries run out of juice quickly; film can become brittle if the temperature is cold enough; camera equipment, when working, wants to slow down or stop; and, even with all of that, enough well-placed clothing must be used to avoid frostbite.

Ansel Adams Said it Best

It was Ansel Adams who said, “Bad weather makes for good photography.” It took me a while to come around but believe me, I’ve come around.

“Bad weather makes for good photography.”

~Ansel Adams

Northern Michigan has its share of cold, snow and ice. There have been times when I said to myself,” Enough is enough, it’s time to head for warmer climates.”

Traverse City, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

Then one day, I was making images in the snow and realized that winter offers photographic aesthetics that aren’t available everywhere, or throughout the year. It was when I embraced all that winter has to offer that I began to not only appreciate, but crave, winter photography.

My Secrets to the Benefits of Winter Photography

We’re supposed to receive six inches of snow this weekend and I can’t wait. Here’s the thing: snow is an absolute gift for making pictures. Between snow and the environment, the natural colors usually turn to white and grey or brown, or both. So, what snow does is it makes whatever color is there to pop.

Even the most muted colors and tones can burst forth from the whiteness of snow.

Traverse City, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

Another benefit of snow is that it offers clean backgrounds. During any other time of year, at least in Michigan, the background usually consists of trees or nature, so all the colors and textures make it difficult to isolate the subject matter. With a pristine white background though and some creative composition, subjects can be presented and captured cleanly and effectively.

Finally, winter can add crazy amounts of mood to your images. If an image is taken in warm weather, it can look beautiful. An image made in snow and ice though just looks tough. Whatever the subject is in a winter photo as endured. If it’s a barn, it’s endured. If it’s a person or people, they’re enduring. Winter adds character.

Freezing temperatures is not for the weak and when you can see your breath while your exposed skin are turning red, you realize that these are the conditions that weed out the less hardy.

Traverse City, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

This leads me to another important benefit of winter photography: you aren’t competing with as many people. Everyone loves to photograph trees filled with green, lush leaves, or sun-filled landscapes of grass. In winter though, not a lot of people want to deal with it so they stay inside or travel elsewhere. This means that you have your snowy, freezing world to yourself without competition.

Snow and cold can make whatever place you’re in appear to be another planet. Make sure to wear proper winter clothes though, for planet winter. Once you embrace and accept the benefits of photographing in the cold, you’ll be open to a world full of visual possibilities.

4 thoughts on “Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography”

  1. I have spent most of my life far from snow. Where I am now snow is an occasional visitor, maybe once a year or less, but there are mountains not that far away where snow is present through winter. I love it, when it snows it is time to grab the camera and go for a drive. And to remember to overexpose one stop!

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