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Don´t let a cold winter stop you from taking photos

Winter sunset at the Østensjø lake in Ås, Norway. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: The Nordic winter has its own charm for photographers. But make sure to check when the light is right!

For four Sundays in a row I have shared photos from warm and beautiful Myanmar. So I figured you need a cold break now 🙂

Besides it has been Christmas. And the weather in my part of Norway – just south of Oslo – was beautiful many days during the break. Today I will show photos from four different Christmas shoots.  All are taken in my home commune, Ås.

It takes a little extra effort to bring the camera out in the winter, cold as it is. But it certainly is worth the effort! But check when the light is right. The best hours are usually one hour before and after sunset. I always use the Suncalc website to check when the sunset is and where it will be in the landscape.

Christmas shoot 1: The old oak in Ås

Why not start with the most photographed object in Ås? It is the old oak standing just next to the Norwegian University of Life Sciences overlooking a beautiful farm field hill.

Here are three photos taken on New Year Eve.  They are quite different in colors and atmosphere, although there are taken on the same evening.  I will explain why.

The old Ås oak. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

The old Ås oak. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

This first photo was taken just minutes after the sun had set behind the hill in the background. It is an HDR photo composed of five exposures: 1/200 sec, 1/100 sec, 1/50 sec, 1/25 sec and 1/13 sec. The ISO is 100 and I used aperture f/11.

I was fascinated by the clouds and tried to compose the photo so that the clouds pointed toward the oak.

The old Ås oak - taken with a strong ND filter to get the blurry clouds. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

The old Ås oak – taken with a strong ND filter to get the blurry clouds. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

The second photo was taken about 20 minutes later. I imagined the photo could be even nicer with blurred clouds. To do that I needed to use very long exposures.

It was still quite bright and normal exposures would not do the trick. The solution was to put on a neutral density filter. I have a very strong one in my bag which blocks out practically all light. This is my choice if I for some reason want to use very long exposures during daylight, for instance when photographing a waterfall.

This photo is composed of six exposures: 5 sec, 10 sec, 20 sec, 40 sec, 80 sec and 160 sec. The ISO is still 100 and the aperture f/11.

Why the colors are so different? There are two reasons. First: Colors change very quickly during sunset. 20 minutes can make a big difference. Second: The very strong ND filter I use tends to give a red tint in the photos, as is visible in this photo.

The old oak. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

The old oak. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

This is the last photo I took that afternoon. The clouds had moved – and I changed my position and angle slightly to use the new position in of the clouds as best as possible in the composition.

Christmas shoot 2: Four trees in Ås

A different place in Ås I found four trees I liked a lot. Here are three photos of these trees taken on the same day, but at different times and from different positions.

Winter trees. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter trees 1. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

White winter. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter trees 2. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Field roald. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter trees 3. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Christmas shoot 3: Afternoon by the lake

There is a small lake called Østensjøvannet in Ås – and I have shared photos from there earlier.

I went back for sunset one afternoon (yes, the sun set at 15:17 that day 🙂 This is Norway, after all!) The lake was covered by ice and snow.

When taking landscape photos I always try to look for lines in the landscape that can lead the viewers´eyes into the picture. Often I walk back and forth to find the best position before I even take one picture.

This time I found that the sun reflected very nicely in the ice on a creek leading into the lake. The main photo on this article is from this place.

Here is another photo:

Winter at the lake. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter at the lake. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Different perspective - using the same creek. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Different perspective – using the same creek. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter tracks by the Østensjø lake. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter tracks by the Østensjø lake. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Christmas shoot 4: Happy New Year

And then there was New Year Eve. I was planning to take photos of the big fireworks in Oslo, but lots of fog in the capital city made me cancel that plan. Therefore I stayed in Ås.

I found that 5-8 seconds exposures was about correct with ISO 100 and aperture f/8. And since you never know when new fireworks are sent up, I just kept taking photos more or less continuously to make sure I had at least a couple of good ones in the end.

Here are the two best ones – with warm wishes for a Happy New Year!

New Year Eve in Ås, Norway. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

New Year Eve in Ås, Norway. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Lady on fire. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Lady on fire. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

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