Photography in winter: How to capture that winning image |

Photography in winter: How to capture that winning image

A stunning winter landscape captured by Grand Lake photographer John Williams.

Capturing the majesty  of a Rocky Mountain morning on camera during winter presents unique challenges, but those hurdles can be overcome with a little expert knowledge and some proper preparation. John Williams, owner of John F Williams Photography, a photography service and fine art photography gallery in Grand Lake, shares his top tips for getting the best shot.


Come prepared with plenty of warm clothing, no cotton, and all the necessary gear you will need to keep yourself warm. Chemically activated hand warmers and a thermos full of hot liquids can make a big difference between being comfortable and being miserable.

Two of the biggest impacts photographers encounter during winter months is battery life and fog. “The cold doesn’t hurt cameras,” Williams said. “Your shutters today won’t stick and the focus always works. But it drains the battery a lot quicker.” 

Keep a spare battery in a bag with a hand warmer to help preserve the life of the camera’s batteries.  

Keep a camera in the car overnight before heading out on a winter shoot. If your camera does fog up do not switch your lenses out in hopes of getting a fogless lens. Williams noted that swapping out lenses while your camera is foggy can cause the mirror in a DSLR camera’s body to fog up. 

Use a tripod or some form of shooting sticks whenever a photographer uses any form of a zoom lens.


Lighting is always one of the most important facets of photography but the stark white snow that typically covers most of the high country in winter months produces significant amounts of additional light with which photographers will need to contend.

The ISO doesn’t need to be nearly as high. A higher F-stop and higher shutter speed will give the greatest depth of field. When the ground is covered in snow, on a bright sunny day, try shooting from F16 on up.

Photographers should be patient and continually work to adjust the camera’s ISO, aperture and shutter to find the perfect fit for a given lighting condition. “Take your camera off of program mode,” he said. “Look at the picture on the back of the screen, see what it looks like and adjust from there.”


Local river valleys offer spectacular images for photographers and the Kawuneeche Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park is among the most beautiful locations on earth. Williams highlighted local snowmobile trials as good avenues for accessing some of Grand County’s more remote winter regions. Williams also recommended County Road 3 and Ute Pass as an area to find beautiful photos in winter.

Photographers looking for wildlife should keep a close eye on and around the Three Lakes during winter. Elk and fox are not uncommon sites during colder months and a few species of birds can be found even in the absolute dead of winter. 


 Provide plenty of depth to winter photos, which can easily appear flat without something to frame the subject matter. “Depth is more important in winter months,” Williams said. “Everything is so white, you need something to break it up. You want to have foreground.”

For more information about John F. Williams’ photography, including his instructional seminars, check out his website at You can also check him out on Facebook under John F. Williams Photography.

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