Technical Tips For Winter Photography

Winter photography can be both incredibly rewarding, and incredibly challenging. While the cold and snow makes for beautiful scenery, it simultaneously creates an obstacle to getting out and enjoying it with your camera. Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to shoot in all kinds of cold conditions, and I’ve learned a few technical things that have helped me create beautiful winter images. I’d like to share a few of those in the hopes that it will encourage you to get out and enjoy the season with your camera.

This post is focusing primarily on technical tips; that is, I’ll be talking about the gear side of the equation. In a subsequent post, I’ll talk more about composition techniques and other aspects of creating beautiful winter photography.

#1: Get several good sets of gloves for different situations

Purchasing gloves for winter might seem obvious, but the real question is what kind of gloves you want to have for photography. When using a camera, having thick gloves can hinder your ability to use the controls, but thin gloves won’t protect from the cold as much. What to do? I have two different pairs of gloves that I use for different situations: a thick pair of down gloves that cover my hands fully and a light pair of photography gloves that allow me to expose just my index finger and thumb. If it’s not too cold, I’ll use the photography gloves alone. In extreme cold (see image below for an example), I’ll use both together, and pull out my shooting hand with the light glove still on. There are also advanced gloves with lots of options (even heating! nice!), but these tend to be more expensive. Just make sure you prepare your hands for the conditions you’ll be shooting it. Even when frostbite isn’t a threat, it’s good to be as comfortable as possible.

The temperature was 0°F with a -20°F windchill when I took this picture. Good gloves (and a face mask, and jacket, etc.) were a must!

#2: Use a weather cover for your camera

Photographers naturally shy away from taking their gear out in the rain without proper protection, but it’s easy to let this reservation slide in the snow. However, snow can end up doing damage to your camera just as easily as rain. I know from experience! Once, during a snowfall event in Tokyo, I went out shooting all day. My camera was supposed to be weather sealed, and it was snow, so I figured the camera could handle it. Unfortunately, the snow melted and entered into my camera’s circuitry, causing significant problems and forcing me to pay for an expensive repair. Unless you know for certain that your camera is fully sealed, or don’t mind taking the time and money to repair it, make sure your camera is covered when it’s snowing. It’s a bit of a hassle to shoot this way, but it’s much better than the alternative.

It was during this outing in Tokyo that snow entered my camera and ruined the internal circuitry. Glad I got the image, but would have been nice to save the repair money!

#3: Keep your camera warm

Just like your body, cameras will struggle to operate at full capacity in cold weather. Especially once the temperatures drop below freezing, cameras can become sluggish or even stop working altogether. Even if the camera itself would work, the battery may struggle to provide power in these conditions. If you’re going to be out in the cold long enough, it is good to have some way to keep the camera warm. This can be as simple as holding it close to your body, or you can even attach hand warmers to it. You can also keep a spare battery in a pocket in your jacket, so it’s ready if needed. This isn’t typically an issue unless you’re dealing with extreme cold, but it’s worth keeping in mind as you prepare.

#4: Use spiked feet for your tripod

Most tripods come with rubber feet, and in many conditions that works great for keeping the camera steady. However, in icy conditions, rubber feet will slip just like tires. To avoid this problem, you can use metal spiked feet instead. Many tripod makers will include spiked feet in the box. My Benro Series 3 tripod came with rubber feet attached, and a set of 3 spiked feet that I could change to if needed. I have used that feature a lot this winter. A past tripod I owned had an interesting feature wherein the rubber feet actually had holes in the middle, from which a small spike could emerge with just a few twists. That was very convenient, although dirt and gunk would easily build up inside this area. At any rate, just make sure you can keep your tripod stable on the ice. Even an expensive carbon fiber tripod becomes useless if it’s sliding around while you’re trying to shoot!

I took this image on top of ice which had built up at the edge of the stream. Spikes for both my shoes and tripod were necessary to get this image without getting wet!

#5: Let your camera readjust to warmth slowly

If you wear glasses, you probably know the story: a sudden change in temperature, such as moving from an air-conditioned building to a hot summer day, quickly fogs up your lenses so you can hardly see. The opposite is true as well; going from cold conditions to warm in a short period will also produce condensation. Your camera lens is just as susceptible to this phenomenon as eyeglasses. This can cause problems inside the lens, which can lead to buildup on the glass where it cannot be cleaned. In my experience, the easiest way to avoid this is simply to keep your camera in your bag for a while after you come inside (either at home or in the car). If you were only outside for a few minutes it won’t take as long to warm up, but when you’ve been in the cold for hours, it can take quite some time to return to normal. After one particularly cold excursion, I pulled my camera out two hours later and it was still cold to the touch! If you want to get the images off the camera quickly, use an SD card reader and simply remove the card from the camera while keeping it in the bag.

#6:  Keep the lens hood on

When it’s snowing, it’s easy for snow to get on the front of the lens, which can cause blurry spots in your image. If you’re shooting with a longer lens, make sure to keep that lens hood on. Unless the wind is really whipping the snow around, this will generally keep snow off the front element. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well with wide angle lenses, since the lens hoods are much shorter. In that case, using the bill of a hat or even your hand might help. Just make sure that nothing is visible in the shot, and that you don’t bump the camera while you’re shooting. Once you’ve taken an image, be careful to check it for spots on the camera’s screen. It can be a pain to keep snow off the lens, but it’s much easier to do that on site than it is to fix a big spot in post.

#7: Take care of your (human) body

It can be easy to get focused on protecting your gear and forget to protect yourself. This means more than just covering your hands – it means protecting your whole body. Even aside from obvious things like warm jackets and pants, you might also want to look into gear like microspikes for your boots. I’ve found this simple little tool to be incredibly helpful, as it keeps me from sliding around on frozen lakes and gives extra grip when I’m hiking in the woods. I also have several different face masks I use, depending on cold it is. Even aside from safety concerns (which should always take precedent), all of this can benefit your photography as well. The more distracted by conditions you are, the less you will be able to focus on what you’re shooting. If you’re staying warm, you’ll be more prepared to enjoy the scene.

These are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me create solid winter images. There are also many photographic aspects you need to consider, and I’ll discuss those in a future post. But before you begin thinking about how to photograph wintry scenes, you first need to be prepared to get out in it. Hopefully, this will help you do that!

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you found this helpful. Until next time, stay safe, stay warm, and happy shooting!

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Top 10 Images of 2017

It’s that time of year again – time to to go through my images and choose 10 favorites that were taken throughout this year. This year it was hard to choose just ten, because I’ve had the opportunity to see so many beautiful locations, and experience a lot of firsts. But after a good bit of thought, here are my top 10 favorites from 2017…

#10: Ikebukuro, Tokyo

#9: Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine

#8: Flowing Cherry Blossom Petals at Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Sakura Petals

#7: Sunset Over Tsugaru Fujimi Lake, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

#6: Autumn Swirls at Thompson Falls, White Mountains, New Hampshire

#5: Tsumekizaki Lighthouse, Izu Peninsula, Japan

#4: Sunset In The Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

#3: Cherry Blossoms surrounding Mt. Fuji, Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

#2: Sunlit Autumn Colors, White Mountains, New Hampshire

#1: Sunset at Suzumejima, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

To all those reading – thank you so much for your support in 2017! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my images all year. Here’s to a fantastic 2018! Happy New Year Everyone!

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Favorite 2018 Autumn Images From The White Mountains

For the last couple of years, since my family knew we would be moving back from Japan, I have been looking forward to the 2017 autumn season in New Hampshire. Don’t misunderstand – Autumn in Japan is amazing. I’m already missing it! I especially miss my yearly trip to Mt. Fuji, which is lovely this time of year. Nevertheless, I’ve been looking forward to this season in New Hampshire, because I knew it would be different from anything I’ve experienced. This year, my focus was primarily on the White Mountains. New Hampshire’s White Mountains offer some of the most beautiful autumn scenery in New England. From breathtaking mountaintop vistas to hidden waterfalls deep within the forest, the beauty is seemingly limitless. It was so much fun to get out and photograph this amazing region.

I took a ton of images this year, but I wanted to share some of my favorites with you all. Honestly, I’m not even close to finishing edits of all the photos I took! But I think these are enough to show why I was so excited for this year’s travels. And hopefully, it will inspire you to plan a trip here for yourself next year!

White Mountains Autumn

Stairs Falls White mountains

Autumn leaves on the ground

Curvy road in autumn

Abstract autumn image dragging

Fallen leaves in Crawford Notch Autumn

Thompson Falls White mountains

Autumn Path new england

Autumn colors in moonlight

Autumn Swift River New Hampshire

Birch Trees White Mountains

White mountains photography workshop

2018 Autumn Workshop Registration Is Up!

My autumn workshop for 2018 has just opened for registration! You’ll get to join me for 5 days of photographing beautiful autumn scenery, learning composition, settings, and post processing techniques to help you create stunning fall images for yourself. It may seem a bit early, but the spots will go fast, so make sure to get yours now. You can find more details and the registration form here: 2018 White Mountains Autumn Photography Workshop

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    Sakura Flow || Lightroom Only

    I’ve taken many different images of sakura (cherry blossoms), from all sorts of angles and at various focal lengths, but there has been photo I’ve wanted to take for a while that I’ve had a hard time getting. Thankfully, while visiting Aomori Prefecture for a photography project recently, I found the perfect place to finally get this photo, which you can see below.

    The photo was taken in a section of the moat around the Hirosaki Castle grounds. As the blossom petals fell into the water, the wind blew them across the top of the water. Since the petals were all fresh, they still had the lovely white/pink hue, which made the scene that much more beautiful. I especially loved that the brown lily pads had caught some of the sakura petals, so there was a mixture of both motion and stillness. It was the exactly the scene I had been looking for to get this shot!

    This is also another good opportunity to show the power of Adobe Lightroom to simply but powerfully process a digital photograph. This image didn’t require a lot of time or details in Photoshop – just some simple controls in the Lightroom work space. One of the many reasons I love this software!

    Camera: Nikon D610
    Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
    Filter: Hoya NDX400 Neutral Density Filter
    Shot Info: f/8 | 30 Sec | ISO 125 | 85mm

    Click Here To See A Larger Image


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      Sunset at Suzumejima

      Last week I had the chance to visit Suzumejima in the Boso Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture. It’s a place that I’ve been wanting to photography for some time. The location itself isn’t anything all that fancy – it’s comprised of two rocky structures sticking out from the water near the coast. Despite the location’s simplicity, it is a beautiful spot to photograph the sunset, especially this time of year. For a brief period each year, the sun sets directly between the two structures, making for a breathtaking scene in the right conditions.

      For that reason, it was the conditions I was most concerned about for this outing. For photography of this nature, you generally don’t want to have totally clear skies, but too many clouds can obscure the sunset, so there’s a narrow set of perfect conditions for which I was hunting. As you can see in the image below, it’s safe to say I got the conditions I wanted!

      I had a great time photographing Suzumejima! In fact, it was so much fun, I made a video where you can join me behind the scenes. You can watch the video below the image.

      Camera: Nikon D610
      Lens: Nikon 16-35mm f/4
      Shot Info: f/11 | Multiple Exposures (Blended) | ISO 100 | 27mm

      Click Here For A Larger Image

      Sunset Chiba Prefecture Japan

      Behind The Scenes Video:

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