How To Photograph Great Frosty Scenes
Now we are getting into winter, here's a quick reminder of some of the skills you need to get great shots on crisp, frosty mornings.
1) Get up early enough
While you don't need to be up in the middle of the night, you do need to give yourself enough time to get all your gear set up when shooting a frosty early morning landscape. So scout out your scene beforehand and get there in plenty of time. You also need to give your camera time to acclimatise. Taking it immediately out into the cold morning air from a warm house or warm car can cause the lens to steam up. Be wary of leaving your camera in the car overnight for security reasons, but be prepared for a bit of adjustment time.
2) Make the most of early morning light
Frost is heaviest in the early morning, so use all the skills of the landscape photographer. First light can be beautifully soft, but make sure there is enough of it – an underexposed foreground can look ugly and boring. So you might need to wait for the low winter sun to get a bit higher in the sky. Then, make use of great techniques such as backlighting, which can look great on hedges or trees, or contre jour, where the sun's rays appear through frost covered tree branches.
3) Frozen water
Don't forget the photographic opportunities offered by ice too – a frozen pond can look amazing. You may need to use a polariser to reduce glare and reflections if the sun is higher in the sky, and make sure your reflection doesn't also appear in the water. Use an ND Grad filter if necessary to balance the exposure of the sky with the foreground, or take some bracketed shots and merge in Photoshop.
4) Frozen leaves and other details
The devil is indeed in the detail, so as well as going for big frosty landscapes, watch out for beautiful, frost-covered leaves or branches. It's well worth taking along a macro lens if you can for these more detailed shots. Consider using a tripod and manual focus, or use a wide aperture and then focus carefully on a particularly beautiful leaf.
5) Look out for patterns
Related to the above, if you use a macro lens and go right in on frozen water or leaves, you can capture some wonderful patterns. If you use manual focus and a tripod, consider zooming in using Live View, via the rear LCD. This enables you to carefully check that critical areas are in focus.
6) Frosty objects
Finally, don't forget that frost-covered objects can be very evocative, such as statues and other garden ornamentation, beautiful railings, the roofs of picturesque old houses and so on. When it comes to post processing, by all means ramp up the winter colours and blue skies, but don't get carried away or your images can look garish and artificial.
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