The cool, clean air of winter makes it perfect for capturing landscapes, particularly when there's snow on the ground or a touch of fog in the air. However, shooting landscapes in winter comes with its own set of dangerous so here are a few things for you to remember before heading out of your front door.
Keep checking the weather reports regularly for a few days before you plan on heading off to take your photos. Weather, particularly up in mountainous areas, can go from fine to terrible quite rapidly so knowing what to expect can help you prepare or even make you think it's probably best to stay inside and try your shoot another day.
If a clear night is forecast it will mean it'll be cold but it does increase your chance of capturing a sky bursting with colour but don't be too down-hearted if there's a little cloud cover as it will help diffuse the light.
Do remember that after a downpour surfaces become slippery so take extra care. This becomes even more important when it's snowed or cold temperatures have turned wet surfaces into ice. As well as ice, muddy, wet conditions are also hard going as you have to work twice as hard at trying to stay up right as well as moving.
Bad weather isn't all bad though as it can give you some cracking photos if you're prepared to face it.
Time of day
Shooting during the 'golden hours' may produce good photos but it does mean you'll be heading out or back home when it's dark and dropping cold. Wearing the right clothing will keep you warm but do pack a torch too so you can see where you're going. A head torch is more useful than a hand-held one as it keeps your hands. Knowing your location well and having a set route will also help you get back to your car safely. If you want to shoot at a new location go and scope your route out before you planned shoot day, preferably in the daytime so you can clearly see the path you'll be taking.
Your chosen shoot location
Do take into consideration how long it will take you to get to the place you want to take your photos and we don't just mean driving time. If you have to park somewhere and walk how long will the walk take? Is the path good or really muddy? Is it level terrain or will you be hiking up hill most of the way? Everyone is different and some won't mind a muddy two hour hike while the idea will scare the life out of others so do your research before you leave the house.
Once you're out, watch where you're putting your feet and most importantly, take your time. Having someone else with you (preferably a none-photographer) who's more likely to spot things as they won't be looking at the world through a viewfinder comes in very handy.
You also need to be extra cautious when walking around the edges of lakes and rivers as after a night of heavy rainfall or on really cold mornings when there's still ice on the ground, surfaces will be very slippy and you don't want you and your kit getting a soaking.
Clothing and shoes
Heading out early on a winter's morning usually means rather cold temperatures will be waiting for you so make sure you're ready for them. Wear plenty of layers as this will trap air and keep you warm, make sure you have a hat and even though gloves can be annoying when you're taking photos, you'll be glad you packed them once you're out in the field. Wear boots that are waterproof, warm and most importantly have a good grip. Carry spare socks too as having wet feet, particularly when it's cold, isn't a fun experience.
Food and clothing
If you're going out for a long time do take a flask of something warm with you and pack some food to keep your energy levels up.
Do pack your mobile phone (make sure it's charged) and consider putting it in your bag rather than your pockets where it can fall out and become lost or damaged. There are many apps out there now which can tell you the weather forecast, show you maps, routes and all sorts of other information you'll find useful when out shooting landscapes.
Map and compass
We know that nearly everyone owns a phone now but you shouldn't just reply on technology. If you're using a map on your phone and it suddenly dies or it gets damaged you'll no longer have a route to follow. They're not heavy items and don't take up too much space so do remember to take them with you.
Tell a family member or friend where you're going and if possible, don't go alone. Make sure you write down where you're going as well as verbally telling them as people tend to forget. Having a route in-mind before you leave the house will not only mean you're not wondering round without a plan but people back home should be able to pin-point you more quickly if anything should happen.
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