Unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where the sun shines all year, you’ve probably been met with the winter photography doldrums. I live on the west coast of Canada, aka the “wet coast” to locals. Needless to say, we get a lot of rain through the winter months. As someone who shoots about 85% of my images outside, I know that the winter season can cause a drastic reduction in both inspiration and shooting time, based solely on the weather.
So, how do we force ourselves to get outside and be creative once the autumn colors are gone? How do we motivate ourselves to step out of our warm houses into the winter weather? Below are a few tips to help you stay inspired to get out photograph during the winter months.
Writer Alfred Wainwright once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” This holds true for both you and your camera gear. Being prepared with things like waterproof clothing and footwear, gloves and hand warmers can make all the difference while out in the elements. If you’re not concentrating on wet feet or frozen fingers, you’re way more likely to put time into your winter photography.
Likewise for your camera equipment — make sure it stays protected. Waterproof camera bags are essential where I live. They are well worth the investment to know that your gear is safe and dry. If it’s cold, you’ll want to keep extra batteries in your pockets as you’ll need to replace them more frequently. Rain covers are available online for your camera, or you can make one out of a plastic bag if need be! Silica gel packs of various kinds can be bought to help absorb excess moisture away from your gear.
My personal favorite thing to do is bring a thermos of hot tea to keep me warm while out shooting frigid winter sunrises. I also always carry a large garbage bag in my camera bag to sit on, or lay gear on if the ground is wet.
Use the weather to create unique images
Now that you’re prepared to face the elements, it’s time to get outside! While a rainy day might not make the world look all bright and beautiful, it gives you the option of creating moody and unique images. Rain can cause all sorts of reflections and puddles to play with if you’re in the city.
Similarly, a fresh blanket of snow can completely alter a familiar scene into something new, whether you’re in a rural or urban setting.
A frequently visited beach in the summer might be completely transformed during a winter windstorm and give you an uncommon image of a popular area. I like to watch the hourly forecast during storms and try to get out and shoot just as they clear. If you time it right, clearing storms can create dramatic skies and phenomenal light.
Winter can also provide unique detail shots when it comes to snow and ice. Look for patterns, lines and shadows created by snow and ice for interesting compositions.
Hit the golden hours
A perpetual problem in my life as a landscape photographer is that I am not a morning person! Setting the alarm for 4 a.m. to go capture the pre-sunrise light makes me want to cry every time. However, the winter months are perfect for hitting the golden hours because they are much more accessible timewise.
I personally am much more likely to go hit a sunrise that’s happening at 7:30 a.m. in December than a much earlier one in July. The trade-off, of course, is that it can be pretty frigid in the early mornings of the winter months. As stated above, being prepared for the cold is crucial. The same goes for photographing winter sunsets: They are much earlier in the day, but can come with a chillier price tag.
Find a friend
Staying motivated can be difficult alone. Most towns have camera clubs or social media groups where local photographers can connect. Set up a photowalk with another photographer or create an online group with weekly challenges. Join a 365 project, or ask another photographer to critique your work.
Being accountable to other photographers will help you stay motivated during the winter months.
While it might be hard to pull yourself off the couch and dust off your camera during the winter months, I recommend giving it a try. Less crowds and dramatic weather can lead to unique images that you might not be able to capture during the summer. And a little fresh air is always good for the soul as well!