How to photograph black & white winter landscapes

by Don T. Damiano

Three of the UK’s top landscape photographers deliver their top tips for capturing stunning black & white landscapes

As the days turn grey and the nights draw in, it’s the perfect opportunity to capture the surrounding landscape in beautiful black and white. Read on for tips from three of the UK’s top landscape photographers on how to photograph winter landscapes in black & white.

Paul Sanders on how to photograph black and white winter landscapes

1. Footprints

Nothing destroys a potentially beautiful photograph like a set of footprints, usually those of the photographer trying to decide on the best composition. I always work towards something and tread lightly, perhaps walking the long way around the edge of a field. I spend time thinking my shots through before I even venture into an area of pristine snow.

2.Light

There is no such thing as bad light – light is what it is and we should be grateful we can see it. Flat light works better for me than the wonderful golden light I see in others’ work. Flat light is just as valuable as golden light because it lowers contrast and loses shadows, which can be useful when shooting in snow that’s been walked on.

3.Wrap up

This almost goes without saying but dress sensibly. When walking to a location you might get warm so pack spare layers that you can wrap up in when you stop. Standing still will create snowy masterpieces but will cause your body temperature to drop, especially in your hands and toes.

4. Weather

The uncertainty of winter weather is something we should embrace. If it’s cloudy one minute, the sun will burst through and deliver spotlight illumination, or the rain will be backlit as it tumbles from the heavens. Adapt to the changes and enjoy the opportunities they present, and you won’t be disappointed.

5. Get up, get out

Whatever the weather, get out of bed and go. Pictures don’t take themselves and the biggest barrier to successful winter shots is our comfy cosy bed. Get out of bed an hour earlier than you think you need and get on the road. Prep your kit the night before so you don’t leave anything behind. With any luck you’ll be back before breakfast!

6. Simplify

We all try to cram too many elements into our work. I prefer to compose from the inside out, starting with my main subject and expanding my view. I use this so that I don’t become obsessed with certain elements that in the end detract from the story I’m telling rather than add value.

7. Patience

Patience is the biggest break you can give yourself. I often turn up at my chosen location to find things looking good but not quite feeling the power of the place. Waiting, watching and enjoying the experience will yield a better connection and deeper vision of a location. Be patient in all things.

In my kit bag I always have:

  • Coffee and cake It’s important to wrap up warm but your body uses energy so I always take a flask of hot milky coffee and cake – lemon drizzle is a favourite.
  • LEE Filter system I always use filters in the winter, especially graduated filters. When it is snowy or frosty, I usually invert the filter to tone down the foreground of the shot.
  • Blunt umbrella It shields the wind, rain and snow off my camera. The Blunt umbrellas are pretty much indestructible which makes them a good investment.

Paul Sanders has over 30 years’ experience as a professional photographer and picture editor. He began photographing landscapes to escape the pressure of his previous job, and uses mindfulness techniques to draw inspiration. He works mainly in black & white as he finds colour distracting.

\Photographer Neil Burnell shares his top tips for taking monochrome landscape images in the freezing depths of winter

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