David Akoubian uses his Tamron SP 10-24mm wide-angle and 18-270mm VC PZD lenses for stunning cold-weather captures.
Article by Jenn Gidman
Images by David Akoubian
ost people head indoors when the mercury drops and the snow starts to fall-but photographers know it’s one of the best times to brave the elements to capture unique seasonal photos. Bundle up in your parka and follow David Akoubian’s top five tips for capturing the winter wonderland outside your window.
Protect yourself and your equipment.
Both you and your gear should be insulated against the harsh winter weather. Wear layers and something over your mouth and nose when shooting, especially if you’ve snowshoed or skied to your destination-your breath can fog and freeze the viewfinder, making it difficult to compose a shot. Batteries exhaust quickly in the cold, so carry spares in either a flat bag or in a layer close to your body, such as in one of your pockets.
Keep in mind that tripod heads will move less easily in the cold (the grease freezes slightly) and that your LCD screen may turn slightly blue at first, but it should be fine after it warms up. Avoid going indoors quickly after you’ve been out for a while, since condensation will form and can freeze when you go back out into the cold air.
Similarly, don’t keep the camera against your body as you travel between locations-you may sweat and the condensation could freeze. Instead, keep the camera in the layer farthest from your body, and if possible, don’t expose it to the elements to help with battery life.
Following these simple tips can help you be on the ready when you come across a particularly gorgeous winter scene, as we did when we spotted a group of icy trees coated with hoarfrost one early morning as we were driving.
Pack versatile lenses that can help you capture every winter scene the way you want to.
You want to make sure your gear is protected, but also that you’ve brought along the right gear. It’s important to have lenses that ensure you’ll be able to capture the wider landscape scenes, as well as the detail shots as you’re hiking around.
I’ve had great success with the Tamron 10-24mm and 18-270mm combination during my winter walks. The Vibration Compensation (VC) feature on the 18-270 works well in the snow (though again, make sure you have extra batteries-the power of this feature can drain batteries).
That “all-in-one” capability of the 18-270 is invaluable in extreme winter conditions, because I’m able to reduce the number of times I need to change lenses. It’s also great for spontaneous moments, like when we were taking a sleigh ride and spotted a bunch of coyotes out hunting for a winter dinner. The 18-270 allowed me to zoom in on one of the coyotes and put it right where I wanted it in my frame.
Put your own spin on an iconic scene.
If you’re lucky enough to travel to some of our national parks or other well-known natural gems, you could find yourself in front of the same scenes that our greatest artists and photographers have documented over the years.
That’s your chance to document the way the scene looks to you, which can be especially effective if the original was created in another season other than winter-or, if the original was a winter shot, you can change your angle or other effects to make it your own.
In 1942, Ansel Adams took his famous photo The Tetons and the Snake River. We were at the same exact overlook where he stood, about 100 yards or so from the parking area, though trees now cover what was once Adams’ unobstructed view. I was able to compose my image with the 10-24 wide-angle lens from a slightly different perspective than Adams and also incorporate the beautiful colors of the sunrise.
Watch out for footprints.
When you’re photographing snowscapes, you have to be cognizant of keeping the scene clean. You basically have to start from further away and carefully work your way in toward your subject-when it’s time to finalize your composition, you don’t get a second chance if you decide you want to step back again, because you’ll have your footprints in the photo. You can always Photoshop them out afterward, but it’s easier if you just avoid having them there in the first place. That’s how I took this pretty photo of the historic T.A. Moulton Barn in Grand Teton National Park with the Tamron 10-24 lens. I didn’t get too close to start and slowly moved forward until I was sure I had the composition I wanted.
Bring a prop along to add color.
It’s great to document the all-natural elements you come across as you’re trekking through the snow, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing a prop along to use in your winter scene, especially if it can add a pop of color to the gray-and-white landscape. It could be a vibrant winter hat or a present wrapped in festive paper that you place under a tree or a colorful scarf wrapped around a snowman you’ve built. My wife came up with the idea to carry a bright-red Christmas ornament with us as we walked around. It ended up being the perfect addition to this tiny tree, which I captured with the 18-270.
To see more of David’s work, go to www.bearwoodsphotography.com.
This article published with permission from Tamron USA