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Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun

The winter sun can help you capture some stunning landscapes. As this extract explains.

| Landscape and Travel
Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun: Landscape Photography: The Four SeasonsThis extract is from the winter part of the Landscape Photography: The Four Seasons title from Ilex. You can find more information about this book and other Ilex titles on their blog.

Regardless of the time of year, the best lighting conditions for landscapes occur when the sun is low in the sky, when the shadow-forming angle of the light creates a strong sense of three-dimensional form in your pictures. During the more clement months, this is typically found early in the morning or just before sunset, but when the sun comes out in winter it remains low in the sky for the entire day. So, while winter may often be associated with wet, gray, and generally downbeat weather conditions, when the sun makes an appearance it is perfect for landscapes.

With daylight hours becoming short, the ends of the day are also very accessible at this time of year, requiring neither an early start or a particularly late finish to capture glorious sunrises and sunsets across (potentially) snow-coated scenes. But this is just the tip of what winter sunlight has to offer: the low sun can be used equally for stark monochromatic images and color shots, and it is the perfect opportunity to look for backlighting that throws a subject into silhouette, or partial backlighting that creates a strong warm glow around a subject—especially when the sun is included in shot.

 Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun: Landscape
When the winter sun makes an appearance, it is the ideal time to head out with your camera and look for stunning landscapes


The winter sun may perform a relatively shallow arc across the sky compared to other seasons, but sunrise and sunset remain particularly special times of day that are capable of creating truly magical images. However, at sunrise, it’s not just about looking for spectacular colors in the sky—especially if you’re photographing in low-lying land or close to water.

While the sun may rise strongly, mist and fog are likely, as warm air collides with cold air, or passes over cold water, which adds another option to your winter landscapes. Shooting from a high vantage point such as a hill or mountainside, low-lying mist may partially obscure the landscape below, while shooting the same subject from a physically lower height  will create a sense of mystery as scenic elements appear suggestively indistinct.  At the same time, a lake or pond photographed from ground level can appear to steam in the early-morning light, which, if the light is golden, can transform what might otherwise be a rather mundane subject into something very special indeed.

The key is to know where you need to be, and when. Check the weather forecast for clear skies at night that will lower the temperature, followed by equally clear conditions for sunrise, and scout your location in advance so you can anticipate where the light will be coming from and seek out potential camera positions. Above all, revel in the low-contrast mystery that fog and mist can bring: while they may not be quite as pronounced as the fogs of fall, winter still has plenty of potential.

 Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun: Sunrise shot of a pond iced over
Get out early and you could be lucky enough to be rewarded with a warm-colored sky as the sun rises above the horizon. This is a great time to shoot near water as ice can reflect the colors of the sky for added atmosphere.

Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun:

Photography Tips - Working With Winter Sun:

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