I am prompted to write this post because of my amazing photography experience during autumn, which this year was particularly stunning in terms of colour.
Winter photography seems dull and uninteresting in comparison, yet I still want to get out with my camera as often as possible and make some images.
Many posts giving tips for winter photography will mention planning, wearing proper clothes and looking after your photography equipment, so I’m going to take these as a given.
There will also be occasions during winter when there's frost, mist, even snow, and you can take advantage of those to capture some incredible woodland images. Most of the winter photography tips you’ll find online will cover these topics well.
But what about on most winter days, when it’s grey and gloomy, or perhaps crisp and dry but without much colour or good light?
The tips I am outlining in this post will address those occasions.
They will be personal tips and suggestions, aimed at the regular person who loves going out in all seasons with a camera just as I do.
I will try not to repeat what can be easily found with a quick online search.
I am writing this post in conjunction with my photography outings and trying to match my tips with a lived experience of doing woodland photography in the winter.
With each of the tips I include some of my own images. I hope you will be inspired to go out and try some winter woodland photography for yourself.
5 Tips for Winter Woodland Phtography
#1 Go to your chosen woodland often and build a connection
Landscape photographer Kim Grant talks often about the importance of building a deep connection with our subjects in landscape photography. For me, this is particularly important in woodland photography and especially so in winter when we meet our subjects in their rawest state.
I often feel particularly drawn to winter trees as they hold their bare branches up to a cloudy sky. Whether it is shrouded in mist, glistening with frost or covered in snow, the same tree can yield numerous appealling images.
A winter sky over the woodland is often dark and foreboding but it has the power to make you stop and look and connect with the dark moodiness. Or alternatively, the winter sky can be full of vibrant colour and character that you just want to photograph.
#2 Find characters in the woodland
I love to photograph bare trees, but they soon begin to look the same and don’t provide varied compositions. Look for trees that stand out from the crowd, trees with unique markings, twisted branches or unusual patterns. Use a shallow depth of field to focus on a tree and provide separation from everything around it.
Spend time examining a tree. Get to know it well, give it a name. become familiar with the characteristics of the tree and what marks it out as unique.
#3 Make use of the unique winter light.
Obviously, with shorter days in winter there is less available light, and as we know, photography depends on light. That’s why it’s vital to make the most of the light we do have. The most interesting light for woodland photography is early morning light. In some parts of the woodland the sun produces a warm, subdued light, it other areas it seems to burst through the trees, illuminating the woodland floor and creating wonderful sun streaks and long shadows.
As the sun is lower in in the sky in winter it will hit your scene or subject from a lower angle. This gives a unique look to the composition. Occasionally I like to shoot into the sun to produce a sun star - just for fun!
For a golden glow on your images visit the woods in late afternoon or early evening, just before sunset.
#4 Use leading lines and natural framing to enhance your compositions.
Woodlands often have numerous paths and tracks that can serve as leading lines in your compositions. As well as giving a sense of depth to your images, leading lines are well suited to winter images as they provide the interest that can make up for a lack of colour. A winding path meandering through a beautiful woodland can look great, and you can draw your viewer into the frame quicker by getting down low and having the path appear closer and wider.
Foreground elements, such as rocks or fallen logs, can also be used to lead the viewer’s eye into the frame.
Use overhanging branches to create a frame to lead the viewer’s eye into the scene. In winter, framing within our image can introduce mood and create a sense of magic as we take the viewer on a journey into our photograph.
#5 Photograph the micro-environment.
Bring a macro lens with you and get closer to the woodland floor. Photograph plants, leaves, insects, pinecones, tree bark and root systems. All types of forest vegetation make good close-up images. Look for interesting arrangements of objects, complementary colours, variety of shapes and patterns. If you go out after a rain shower the woodland floor often glistens, making macro images more stunning.
Spending time outdoors has great therapeutic benefits at any time of year, but this is particularly true in winter. When daylight hours are reduced it is important to try to get out often in the fresh air. Nothing fulfils this objective so much as a winter photography walk in a woodland, and your camera makes the perfect companion for your trip.
I hope these tips help you to make the most of your winter woodland photography shoot.
The following blog post may give you more ideas.