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Photographing in the snow

The last two weeks were dominated by a couple of days of snowfall. With temperatures dropping below zero, most people tend to stay inside rather than go out photographing. However, those who brave the elements, can find themselves in some unique photographic opportunities! So this week, I will share some tips for photographing animals in the snow.

As is with most photography, preparation is half the battle. Wearing the right clothes and staying warm is very important. If you stay warm and comfortable, you are more likely to spend more time outdoors and get the shots you are after. Also, shivering would result in extensive camera shake, so try to prevent that by wearing the appropriate winter clothing. A good pair of shoes with enough tread will help you to travel safely over snow and icy surfaces. If you are traveling by car or bike, plan your trip and make sure you are able to get to your location safely and, at least as important, back home again.

Animal behavior can change when temperatures drop below freezing point. Most feeding grounds will be frozen over, so animals have to look elsewhere for food. Some animals move towards warmer places, like buildings and houses, or gather around ice holes when most water is frozen over. Others, like geese, migrate away entirely. So finding the right spot is key to photographing animals in the snow.

Once you have found a location, it is time to start photographing. A big part of snow photography is applying the right amount of overexposure. To keep the snow nice and white, start by overexposing a stop (+1 EV), and adjust if necessary. Most animals living in forest are primarily brown- or red-colored. Those colors usually work great as camouflage, but when everything is covered in snow, it gives a rather nice contrast. I spotted this group of chaffinches and bramblings from quite a ways away, foraging on the snow covered forest floor.

Getting the right perspective is always important, especially getting on eye level with your subject. On days like these, that can mean sitting or laying on a snowy or frosty ground. So make sure you wear clothes that can handle that! These coots were strolling through a snow covered polder in order to find something to eat. By sitting down in the snow and waiting for them to come to me, I was able to get the close-up shots from a low perspective.

The snow itself gives plenty of possibilities. As shown above, a polder drastically changes when it is covered in snow. An even thicker layer might cover up the entire floor, and changes the landscape. The structures and patterns by the snow itself can make very interesting shots. On the contrary, by overexposing and using a small depth of field, you can create a more abstract shot, turning the snow into a blurred white surrounding.

Of course, snow does not only fall on the ground. Trees, branches and bushes can also be covered with snow, which opens up new opportunities for wintery shots. Like small birds sitting on snow covered branches, or blurring a snowy background to get a more high-key photograph.

Getting out and photographing in these weather conditions might not be for everybody. But for those who do, there is a good change of capturing some unique wildlife moments. So wrap yourself in a good amount of cloths, and get going in the snow