In my new wildlife photo column for the Avon Wildlife Trust and Bristol Nature Network, I give tips on how to develop your photography through the seasons. This first blog covers the subject of Winter.
In between the glowing hues of autumn and the vibrant blooms of spring, winter brings its own kind of subtle beauty. Frost-covered fields, intense sunrises and serene mists over glassy lakes are all cause for celebration. By watching the season unfold and letting your imagination go wild with these top tips, you can improve your photos dramatically.
1. Be Minimalist
Whether it's snow, frost, mist or cloudy skies, white gives you a completely blank canvas for your photos. Winter strips backs Autumn's colourful layers and offers chances for simple yet striking images. Photographing this swan on a misty lake one morning allowed me to isolate it from its surroundings and focus on its elegant form. Overcast light helps brings out subtle details in the swan's plumage, and the splash of orange on its bill lifts the image to another level.
2. Light Up
Make the most of soft winter light, which isn't as harsh as summer light. Although dawn and dusk are best, the sun stays relatively low in the sky all day, providing ongoing opportunities for low contrast, side-lit images. A late autumn rainstorm adds mood and a little texture to this woodland scene. Look for shafts of sunlight bursting through clouds and watch how they spotlight and transform the landscape.
3. Be Creative With Patterns
Winter's stark landscapes are full of intricate patterns, whether it's in the detail of a snowflake, frost fissures or skeletal trees. To create this kaleidoscopic image of a wintry forest, I pointed my camera towards the canopy, selected a slow shutter speed (around 1/30 of a second will do) and, as I took the picture, quickly twisted my zoom lens. With some practise of shutter-speed and zooming technique, interesting patterns can emerge from ordinary scenes.
4. Capture The Cold
Winter not only changes the appearance of the world around us, but also how animals behave. This offers wonderful opportunities for getting evocative seasonal images. The key is to find little details that say "cold", such as the frosty breath of a deer or a bird hunkered down against the cold. Photographing this captive Red-Crowned Crane at WWT Slimbridge, the quietness of the scene spoke of winter to me. To get this kind of silhouette image, I positioned myself with the sun behind the crane to give some soft rim-lighting, then waited for the crane to preen its plumes for that extra golden touch.