Winter is fast approaching and whilst the weather might be getting cold, snow is also falling fast in the mountains and the prospect of photographing snowy locations is high. 
Snowy photos can look amazing but there are also challenges that come along with being out in these conditions. Below are a number of tips on how to get the most out of your photography this winter.
Surviving the Elements
Looking after yourself and your gear is the most important part of enjoying the winter. Ensuring you stay warm and dry is critical. Wearing the right clothing will enable you to spend all day out in the elements, this usually consists of a number of thin layers that you can add and remove depending on the changing temperature and then a coat to protect you from wind and rain. All simple stuff so far.
Take: gloves, hat, scarf, layers, waterproof jacket, waterproof shoes
If you are heading out in slightly more remote surroundings than your back garden then you might want to consider a little extra gear in case the going gets tough. I never go on a winter hike without walking poles and micro-spikes (spikes that attach to the bottom of your walking shoes adding a lot of extra grip). These don't weigh too much and can get me out of a bind pretty quickly. I don't venture into terrain that is too extreme in winter so I don't carry snowshoes or an ice axe but those can also be invaluable for some people although I think you know who you are and what you need already!
Take: Walking poles, micro-spikes
Keeping Your Camera Safe
Keeping your gear safe can require a little more thought and preparation, however. Firstly having a waterproof and protective bag can mean the difference between a functioning camera and one that will let you down sooner or later. There are many bags on the market however I have found (through far too much trial and error) that you usually get what you pay for so don't expect a cheap bag to hold up throughout a winter trip. 
Some people also recommend a rain/snow cover for your camera however I have found them more trouble than they are worth and I try not to expose my camera to really extreme weather for too long and so the weather sealing on my camera does the job for my needs but you might be different.
Take: a good protective waterproof bag 
The right bag and a little caution on how, where, and when you use your camera gear will get you a long way however from my experience in the Alps, the one thing that is easy to forget is your batteries. Keeping batteries warm is essential to get maximum performance and longevity from them. Keeping them in an inside pocket before use can help to keep them warm and stop the cold from draining them of power. 
Tip: put unused batteries in an inside pocket
Technical Tips
Many cameras can have a hard time correctly exposing an image in the snow. As the camera usually sets exposure based on the whole frame, the extremely bright snow will trick the camera into thinking that the scene is overexposed and you are often left with underexposed, grey-looking images. This is easy to overcome using exposure compensation, using your histogram to slightly overexposure but not blow out the highlights, or by shooting in RAW and then brightening the exposure in post. Even most phones allow you to shoot in RAW these days so maybe use that pro mode for once.
Tip: double-check that exposure
White balance can be difficult to get right in camera as the scene will have a lot of white that can make the camera think the scene is warmer than it is resulting in very blue images (even bluer than you will actually see in winter!). This isn't a huge problem if you shoot in raw as this can be corrected in post but be careful if you are shooting jpgs. 
Tip: shoot in raw
Related to exposure, the lack of contrast in many snowy scenes can provide a challenge for many auto-focus systems to be sure to focus on a high-contrast part of the image or check your photos after taking them for correct focus. We've all had the disappointment of getting home only to find our favourite shot is slightly out of focus.
Tip: Double check your image is in focus
Lastly, a common problem is a lens or camera fogging up. This happens when you change locations and there is a big temperature difference. This is most common when going indoors having been out in the cold but can happen the other way around too. This can be difficult to avoid so try and keep this in mind and when it does happen, remove the battery and open all battery and other doors open on your camera for ventilation until the fogging dissipates. 
Composition Tips
Now the fun part. How can we use the snow to create amazing images? Well of course there are many ways and many more than I know of. Just spend a few minutes on Instagram and you'll see some fantastic images, some of which might even be real! Below are a few of my go-to ideas but these are barely scratching the surface and I love looking at photos taken by others for inspiration and ideas. 
One of my favourite composition ideas in all seasons is getting low but this works especially well in winter as the snow can act as a textured foreground and in the light can sparkle too. This doesn't always look good but I find it's a good place to try when my ideas start to run out. 

The snow as a foreground adds interest to an otherwise flat scene

Here the sunlight is reflected by the snow and ice over the lake adding much more interest to the image

Another (rather obvious) idea that works in any season is shooting during golden hour or blue hour. Blue hour does work especially well in winter as the pastel colours compliment the whites and blues in the snow. Something that is special about winter is the prospect of the colours in the sky reflecting on the snow and this can look amazing with the right (and often simple) composition.

Not the best example but the orange and blue compliment each other and you can see the faintest bit of reflection in the foreground

Normally mundane objects can take on a whole new level of interest when covered in or surrounded by snow. It always takes me some time to readjust my observation skills (which aren't the best normally!) to start to notice these small things but once I begin there are so many subjects that could make a great image.

These little trees look nice normally but are much more interesting with the snow which adds contrast and texture

Capturing falling snow is another fairly obvious one. Here you'll usually need a fast shutter speed or 1/125s for gently falling snow with much faster shutter speeds required as the snow gets heavier. When focusing on a subject in the mid or background, the falling snow can act as a foreground interest giving the image added depth.
Next on the list are dronescapes. This is of course not a new concept but the difference in winter is how the snow simplifies composition and this is especially welcome for wide focal lengths including drone shots. What would often be a messy scene can suddenly much more appealing and subjects can often stand out much more clearly. 

Not a great shot but it illustrates how the snow can simplify a scene and allow subjects to stand out much more clearly

Finally, I love how snow can accentuate or add new leading lines to an image. This could be making roads, and paths even more prominent or could be adding new leading lines thanks to tracks in the snow or shadows in the snow which can become very pleasing leading lines. 

The path in the snow creates a nice leading line and helps pull the composition together

There are many more ideas that I know and don't yet know but I love winter photography. Everything becomes an opportunity again. That doesn't mean it is easy and the cold can be an issue but it makes me want to get out there and find new subjects, compositions, and images and I hope it does for you too.
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