Saturday, November 14, 2015

Take great winter landscape photos

Posted By on Sat, Nov 14, 2015 at 9:28 AM

Winter is here and with it comes winter hiking, snowshoeing and skiing, and the chance to shoot great winter scenic photos. Social media will blow-up with more snow pictures than you'll be able to keep up with — please, can we have a moratorium on those pictures of snow on patio furniture?

Here are a few tips on how to shoot better snowy landscape photos:

Cold temperatures can greatly reduce battery life in electronics. If shooting with your cellphone or a compact camera, keep it in an inside pocket, close to your body, to keep it warm between pictures and to have enough energy to make phone calls. If shooting with a DSLR, carry one or two extra batteries and keep them as close to your body as possible and switch them around as needed.

Also, rapid temperature changes can cause your lens to fog. Plan your shooting to give your camera a chance to acclimate and stabilize before shooting. “Touch” gloves that let you operate touch screens and keep your fingers warm are a real bonus when shooting with cellphones.

Bright, sunny conditions can mess with your pictures. Cameras of all types are designed to expose everything at "average" brightness. That works for most shots, but you'll end up with dull gray snow and everything else looking dark if you're shooting bright snow scenes. There are two ways to fix this: Compensate by increasing the exposure when shooting, or fix it later with software or an app.

Every DSLR and most compact cameras have an exposure compensation function (check your owners manual for details), and increasing the exposure +1 or +2 will make that dull gray snow look a nice sparkling white. (Be careful not to over-do it, experiment.) Cellphone cameras may not be able to compensate for exposure while taking your pictures. Look for an exposure compensation adjustment, or, if your camera has it, use the HDR (High Dynamic Range) function.

The other option is to shoot the scene and then fix it later. This is my preferred method because it preserves details, but it does take more work and time. For computers, software such as GIMP, PaintShop Pro, or PhotoShop Elements among others will easily fix dark photos. In your cell phone, SnapSeed and Aviary are my favorites (available in the App Store and Google Play).

Here's an example of with a before (top) and after (bottom):

click to enlarge My original photo of North Cheyenne Cañon Creek. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • My original photo of North Cheyenne Cañon Creek.

click to enlarge North Cheyenne Cañon Creek after exposure adjustment. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • North Cheyenne Cañon Creek after exposure adjustment.

Add color and contrast. A plain white photo, is, well, a plain white photo. To really make your photo interesting, look for something that brings color or contrast to the scene. A lone tree in a snowy field, an old building or people in bright colors are things that make your pictures more visually appealing. Try shooting wide landscapes, including a lot of white, puffy clouds on a blue sky.

Convert to Black and White. Yeah, I know I just said to add color, but with the right software you can convert color photos to black and white. Give it a try.

click to enlarge St. Elmo in color.  It looks "Ok",  but... - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • St. Elmo in color. It looks "Ok", but...

click to enlarge St. Elmo as a black and white conversion. I think  it looks much better. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • St. Elmo as a black and white conversion. I think it looks much better.

Watch your step. Nothing ruins a nice snowscape than unwanted foot prints through the scene. Pay more attention to what's ahead of you and shoot your photos before you walk through your scene. Try walking around the periphery instead of right though the middle of your shot.

Get close. This is good advice for landscape photography in general, and it applies in the winter, too. Enough said.

Up close and personal - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Up close and personal

Location, location, location. There is no shortage of places to shoot great winter scenes in the Pikes Peak region. Of course, the Garden of the Gods is particularly scenic, which is why everyone shoots it. But if you want to try something different, go next door to Rock Ledge Ranch, or North Cheyenne Cañon Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park — a favorite of mine, along with the old quarry in Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Mueller State Park have old buildings that look great in snowy scenes, and if you're up for traveling a little, the St. Elmo ghost town, near Buena Vista offers some great photo ops.

Now, go shoot and share your photos.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:

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