Even the most breathtaking landscape won't make a great photo if the light isn't right. Controlling exposure is the key to creating an image that truly captures what you see. Spend time observing before you start shooting. Notice how the colours change throughout the day: A snowy hillside reveals soft shades of grey, white and blue under overcast skies, but under full sun, brighter colours reveal themselves.
It takes practice to capture the light properly. Digital SLRs and many pocket point-and-shoot cameras allow you manual control over aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed--settings which affect exposure.
First, take a few shots in automatic or programme mode. Check the images in your camera: Are the whites too bright? Is there too much or not enough contrast? Now switch to a manual mode and make small changes to aperture or shutter speed, taking a shot with each change. Compare results as you go until you find the setting that produces the image you want.
To shoot on overcast days or in low light, adjust your ISO setting to a higher number (ISO 400 or 800). Conversely in bright light, ISO 100 or 200 will give you the best results. Early morning and late afternoon light is the warmest light, with soft red, yellow and orange tones. Bright sun at midday is the harshest, creating stark contrast and strong shadows.
Compose with the elements
The dramatic contrasts of objects against the backdrop of bright, white snow are best captured in simple compositions. Look for shape, line and texture to find strong graphic details that make for interesting composition. These bright and dark contrasts can also make for moody black and white images. For best results, take the original shot in colour and make the adjustments on your computer to get just the right black and white effect.
Silhouettes: Bright, clear skies or snow-covered hills create a blank canvas and the strong lighting needed to put your subject into silhouette. Expose for the light in the background and focus on your subject, which will now be in darkness.
Landscapes: If you usually shoot landscapes with a horizontal orientation, take a few in vertical format and see at how it alters the dynamics of your composition.
City scenes: Focus on a small part of the scene and let the snow and frost serve as a background. Move around your subject to find the most interesting angle and to clear clutter from the scene.
Cold weather demands special care for your gear...