Quick Tips for Photographing in Winter

I love getting out in fresh snow or after icy conditions have rolled through a location to photograph nature’s wintry grip on the landscape.  I found that early on I struggled getting the end results I really wanted because where I lived didn’t offer true “wintry” conditions.  Couple that with limited time to travel into the mountains for shutter time, and it took a lot of bad photographs before I started figuring it out. 

"Solitude" - A December snowstorm dusts the Palouse just north of Steptoe Butte State Park in eastern Washington state. 

So, I wanted to share with you some things I learned along the way that were very useful and I would have benefited from prior to gearing up for winter exploration.


So many times early on I found my photos were exposed in a manner that the images looked grey or very dull overall.  What I hadn’t realized was my camera was trying to evaluate the scene as grey rather than white.  So how do you overcome this with your camera?  Depending on which mode you’re shooting in, I typically shift my exposure to around +1 - +1 ½ and adjust as needed.  If your camera has live view, this gives you a real time perspective as to how the scene will look.  Remember, always check that histogram as you are doing this to see where the tones of the scene are spread.  Are the highlights under exposed?  Are your highlights clipping anywhere?  There’s also the other kind of exposure, so don’t lose any fingers or toes while you’re out there, okay?

White Balance

White balance tends to be at the discretion of the photographer, but for the most part winter scenes often lend themselves to a cooler (lower K value) white balance.  More often than not, I start out with a few test shots via auto white balance (AWB) then moving to manual adjustment and looking at the real time results via Live View.  It's important to pay attention in changing conditions, especially with light peeking through and warming up portions of your scene.  This is often a time in which AWB helps a lot, or I change up the white balance in different parts of the image through post processing manipulation and blending multiple copies. 

Canyon Glow - the icefall creeps into Maligne Canyon during a February visit to Alberta, Canada.

Temperature Change

What I am referring to here is the effect of a significant temperature shift has on your equipment, often when leaving your vehicle to get out and grab some shots.  Don’t just expect to roll out of the car and be able to begin putting that camera to work.  Depending on the relative humidity, you may have to wait for your gear to cool down before things begin to defog.  If it’s not too significant, you can break out the lens cloth and get things wiped down and ready for action within a few minutes.

Fog & Light - hoar frost and freezing fog covers the rolling hills after a snow creating a whimsical appearance to the landscape. 

Battery Life

One of the biggest conundrums while out shooting in cold weather is the impact it has on battery life.  Depending on your situation, batteries should be stored where they are not exposed to cold temperatures for extended periods, otherwise they will begin to drain and performance will be significantly reduced.  I always try to stash my backups in a jacket pocket or close to my body to mitigate the temperature’s impact.  Battery life is especially important with many mirrorless camera shooters like myself where battery life is already somewhat reduced compared to a DSLR – my Sony batteries definitely don’t hold up as well in cold weather compared to other shooting conditions.  I offset this by 2 methods – lots of batteries and I carry my Goal Zero gear to be able to charge on the go (and while shooting with the A7r II).  

I mentioned using live view when setting my white balance values, which is a drain on battery life.  Most photographers have adopted using live view as part of everyday practices, so be aware that this use with cold temps will burn through batteries at an accelerated rate. 

Remote Shutter Release

One might scratch their head on this one – how does this make a difference in shooting in winter conditions?  My fingers get numb real quick, and I hate trying to mess with trying to trip the shutter while wearing warm gloves.  I have found that either a remote cable release or wireless remote is golden once you have your settings dialed in.  If you are in a situation where you’ll be changing up your settings as conditions change, then look at some of the gloves that cater to photographers that offer quick access to your index finger.

Minus 25 Fahrenheit - Walking on a frozen lake the influx of a natural stream during the 2014 Polar Vortex swept through northern North America.  We experienced temperatures as low as minus 35F with wind chills below minus 50F.  

Look out for Yourself!

Common sense, right?  Often times we make sacrifices or tradeoffs to get “that shot” – whether it’s walking on an ice covered lake or climbing up on the side of an icefall, you’re taking a bit of a risk.  I mention these two examples because I had very close calls with both, one of which could have ended very badly in a backcountry canyon.   I won’t lecture or judge, but just remember to keep your head about you, it’s easy to get caught up in the places we visit or fall victim to tunnel vision while trying to get that image you’ve been dreaming about.

"No Rime or Reason" - Rime Ice covers literally everything in this valley during a frigid February morning.  Luckily the camera did just fine being a little icy. 

I hope these key points are useful for you as we begin to think about cooler days ahead for those of us in the northern hemisphere.  What do you think, did I leave out anything you find essential for shooting in these conditions?  Let me know! 

If you'd like to join in on an adventure photographing in winter conditions, join Colby Brown and myself this winter exploring the winter wonderland in the Lofoten Islands of Norway!  Click on the link below for more information! 



2017 Norway - Lofoten Islands Winter Wonderland Tour with Colby Brown

2017 Norway - Lofoten Islands Winter Wonderland Tour with Colby Brown

First Impressions: b-grip UNO for Mirrorless Camera Systems

I reached out to the good people at b-grip, an Italian based company that recently released the UNO, a carry system designed to work with mirrorless camera systems.  I've had this for about a week and I wanted to give you some initial insights as I am adjusting to using it before my travels to Peru in mid May. 


Construction & Design -

The UNO is a "high resistance techno-polymer" that contains glass micro-spheres as well as fiberglass.   Although it appears to be high grade plastic at first glance, this mount is definitely tougher than expected (no flex/warp/discoloration under stress).  One of the big differentiations with this mount is that on the chest mount it allows the camera to hang pointing directly down, not resting on the mount or strap.  This seems to prevent the camera/lens rubbing on the mount (note - the b-grip UNO needs to be mounted at mid chest or a touch higher, otherwise if mounted too low it is not as efficient for accessibility).


The UNO mounts in two manners - a compression bar for the shoulder strap mounting option or a belt/pocket hanger option.  I have zero interest in the belt option, so my tests will be solely on the shoulder mount.  On my initial walk around, I may use some paracord to attach the bottom of the UNO to the shoulder strap to prevent the system from 'flapping' while climbing around. 

Arca Swiss Plate

The UNO has an Arca Swiss style mounting plate made out of the same techno polymer as the rest of the system.  This plate is very basic, with a rubberized surface between the plate and the camera.  This works great for my Sony A7r but I noticed that when mounting it to the Sony A6000 it was tight against the LCD and I couldn't easily tilt out the LCD.  I will likely be shooting with the A6000 more on this system than the A7r, so I am curious to see how much 'annoyance' this causes. 

I have also mounted my GoPro Hero3 on this system and I really like how it fits well with the UNO.  I have a feeling I will be doing more GoPro video and timelapse now that I have something besides my crazy head mount!

component diagram

Ease of Use

The locking system is nice, I felt very comfortable in my initial walk around that both cameras were secure and I wasn't going to lose them.  In my attempts to 'quick draw' my cameras I found the system to take some time to get acquainted so that I can quickly get the camera out and ready for shooting.  I need a bit more practice with this before I can feel confident in using this over something like a Rapid Strap. 


Ok, that's all for now, be sure to check out my social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Trover) for behind the scenes images, updates on our work with The Giving Lens, and much more!


5 Items That Should Be On Your Wishlist

I'm a bit of a gearhead, especially with the items I bring along in my outdoor adventures that play an important role to the success of the trip.  With new travel opportunities emerging over the past few months and more just around the corner, I've been penciling a list of big ticket items to purchase that will be added to the packing list.  These items I qualified for this list as a result of having significant influence (either direct or indirect) on outdoor photography as well as travel.  I am not by any means being paid to create, mention or pitch any of these products or brands - this is totally out of my own list as well as some great items that have been released as of late. I find that all of these items will have a major benefit in outdoor photography or a useful tool to incorporate into the adventure.  So, lets check out some new gear!


1.  Goal Zero Solar Recharging System -

Goal Zero makes a portable, solar recharging system for just about every need imaginable - from a power stick to keep your smartphone fully charged to the expedition style Yeti systems that can keep a small base camp functioning in the most remote corner of the world.  Somewhere in the middle of all this is the Sherpa 100 series system.  This system is offered in the perfect bundle - solar capacitor, an inverter for standard plugs, and a large solar panel for keeping it all charged for around $600.  This system is well adapted to keeping camera batteries fully juiced as well as being able to handle charging a laptop or tablet.  In addition to charging via the solar panel the Sherpa 100 can be charged while on the drive from location to location or in the swank hotel digs via a standard plug.  This is high on my list for working abroad when regular charging isn't always an option or I'm off the grid.  

The Sherpa 100 kit from Goal Zero - photo courtesy of GoalZero.com 

The Sherpa 100 kit from Goal Zero - photo courtesy of GoalZero.com 

2.  Compact, high output LED flashlight

Kinda vague, I know.  I have a hard time just picking one brand here.  I personally have been a big fan of the products rolling out from Fenix Lighting - a mix of standard battery and rechargeable options ranging from compact 100+ lumen flashlights to larger, search and rescue (SAR) style lights pouring out 2600+ lumens of light.  Many other companies like Surfire, Four Thirds, and others have been doing a great job of providing high out put lights in relatively small packages.  I've used these with colored gels in light painting as well as for general needs in camp and visibility on the trail.  I tend to opt for lights in the mid range category that take AA batteries or are rechargeable (pair that up with the Goal Zero Sherpa).  Regardless of brand, its something that you should have in the bag!

The Fenix TK-22 flashlight, capable of emitting 920 lumens via a rechargeable lithium ion battery. Photo courtesy of Fenixlighting.com

The Fenix TK-22 flashlight, capable of emitting 920 lumens via a rechargeable lithium ion battery. Photo courtesy of Fenixlighting.com

G-Technology G-Drive ev ATC

This hard drive from G-Technology is a great option for someone needing a tough, efficient hard drive for file management and back up while out in the field.   The all terrain casing (ATC) protects the ev RaW hard drive that's engineered to easily take a 1.5m drop.  Available in both Thunderbolt ($230) and USB 3.0($180), this is a big wishlist item for backing up images on the go.  For current G-Technology owners the ruggeg ATC case with either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 will be available for purchase to incorporate your existing  G-DRIVE ev or G-DRIVE ev SSD.  

image courtesy of G-Technology

image courtesy of G-Technology

Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp

I think Petzl has made a remarkable piece of equipment in the Tikka RXP ($100) headlamp.  This high output (up to 215 lumens) and rechargeable system brings new innovations to headlamps with customizable programming for burn times and light output via the USB charging port through Petzl's free OS software. The idea behind this light is to have reactive lighting technology - basically it is able to sense the distance between the light and the object it is lighting and modify the lumen output based on distance.  This multi-beam light is high on the list if you're overdue for a headlamp upgrade.  

Image courtesy of Petzl.com

Image courtesy of Petzl.com

GoPro Hero4

GoPro has done it again with the fourth installment of their popular action cam.  This time around we've been given 4k video recording at 30 fps, night shooting modes, Wifi+Bluetooth connectivity, increased image quality and much more built in to the Black edition.  GoPro has also rolled out the ability to accessorize with a touch display panel for the back of the GoPro4 (and an option now for the Hero3+ and Hero3). The GoPro Hero4 comes in at $399.00 for the Silver and $499.99 for the Black edition.  The additional features make this a substantial upgrade if low light and high quality imagery are priorities with your action cam.

image courtesy of GoPro.com

image courtesy of GoPro.com

So I've given you some of my big ticket items that I am hoping to acquisition for my camera bag and worldly travels.  What are some of your wishlist items?

Everything has a beginning...

Welcome to the blog roll portion of my new website.  This will serve as a platform for sharing content regarding photography techniques, educational information, travel stories, and much more.  I look forward to breaking out and sharing more than just my images in the very near future. 

I figured more than just a quick 'hello' was in order for this introductory post, so I have included my first portfolio image, 'King of the Valley.' Special moments like this were and always will be critical in the progression of this art in my life.  Over the past few years I often find myself reflecting on my earlier work when I'm met with challenges or creative roadblocks. I have found that when I am having struggles with creativity, I remind myself of why I picked up a camera in the first place.  The love of the outdoors and nature took me down the path I walk today and enjoying those things are at the heart of why I continue to explore, photograph and teach.

'King of the Valley' - my first real 'portfolio' quality image created back in the fall of 2010.

'King of the Valley' - my first real 'portfolio' quality image created back in the fall of 2010.