The Less-Than-Perfect Storm: Getting Great Winter Photos Under Challenging Conditions

Photo of a snow-covered landscape. Aftermath of “The Perfect Storm” in the New York Botanical Garden. © F. M. Kearney
Aftermath of “The Perfect Storm” in the New York Botanical Garden. © F. M. Kearney

By F. M. Kearney

I had always dreamt of photographing a Winter Wonderland – a landscape where every inch of ground and every branch and twig is totally coated in a thick layer of fluffy, white powder. In some parts of the world, that’s just an average Tuesday, but it’s quite a rare sight to see if you live in an urban area. In fact, in nearly the past 20 years, I can only remember one time when the snow conditions in the New York City area rivaled that of what one might typically expect to see in a rural, Midwestern locale. It was Christmas Day, 2002 – the first White Christmas the city had experienced in many years. Although we only received about six inches of snow, it was the dense, heavy kind that tends to stick to everything it touches. The photo above is one of the many photos I shot the next day in the New York Botanical Garden. As you can see, it was a photographer’s dream. Conditions were so optimum that I wrote an article about it back in 2015:

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Finding Color in a Black & White World: Ways to Liven-Up Drab Winter Photos

A waterfall is a great place to find color… even in the winter.
A waterfall is a great place to find color… even in the winter.

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Winter – nature’s bleakest season. Or is it? It seems so, considering the scarcity of photographers in the field at this time of year. Where you would normally have to fight for the best position, you will undoubtedly now have the entire place all to yourself. In addition, you don’t have to worry too much about anyone wandering into your shot. Yes, winter doesn’t get much love when it comes to photography. Perhaps, it’s the inconvenience of dealing with frigid temperatures, and all the precautions needed to properly protect yourself and your equipment. Or, perhaps it’s the belief that there just isn’t anything worthwhile to shoot. Let’s face it, outside of a majestic, winter wonderland captured at the break of dawn or late in the day, most winter scenes are pretty bland. The fact that winter follows autumn – the most colorful of all seasons – you might feel as though you’re now shooting in black and white. But that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no color to be found at all. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look and employing a few simple techniques.

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