While spring and fall offer a distinctive color palette, winter brings to the prepared eye a wonderful array of tones and subjects that distinguishes it from the rest of the days of the year. Winter has a special quality all its own, which calls to the photographer to visit, to explore and to capture. With the help of several accomplished photographers, we offer some special locations to consider visiting during this time of year.
Note: The latitude and longitude data provided are approximate coordinates and can be used in GPS units or at www.mapquest.com.
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Tom Till (www.tomtill.com)
The sandstone red accentuated against the white and blues of fresh snow offers an exploration of colors and contrast. With more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, this southwestern location provides you with an opportunity to produce images with vibrant color during the heart of winter. Even oft-photographed Balanced Rock takes on a completely new appearance, as in this photograph, shot through the mist. Located in a high desert, you can expect the cold, but be ready for major fluctuations in temperature while you're out. Many of its natural occupants, including jackrabbits, mule deer and songbirds, are mostly active during dusk and dawn, so be prepared for changing temperatures.
Balanced Rock GPS Coordinates: Lat. 38° 42’ 00" Long.-109° 34’ 00"
Yellowstone National Park, Montana
Marc Muench (www.muenchphotography.com)
This popular destination takes on a completely different appearance during winter. The whiteness of snow and dramatic blue winter skies can complement the cloud-like release of a geyser like Old Faithful as seen in this photograph. While you can expect cold temperatures around 20° F, this helps thin out the crowds and provides tourist-free images of many iconic locations. Snowfall is highly variable, so it's advised that you monitor the weather and try to coordinate your visit so you arrive soon after a winter storm.
Old Faithful Geyser GPS Coordinates: Lat. 44° 27' 30'' Long.-110° 50' 00''
Lake Superior, Two Harbors, Minnesota
Gary Alan Nelson (www.garyalannelson.com)
During the winter months, few people are compelled to deal with the challenging elements around the lake. This harsh weather also provides a photographer with a sense of solitude, however. In winter, the landscape can change daily, depending on snowfall and the ice pack, but that variability can produce fresh subjects to photograph, such as these icicles against a color-rich horizon. Severe winter storms do occur, but their passing often results in many opportunities to create unique images.
Lake Superior Coastline GPS Coordinates: Lat. 46° 57' 30'' Long.-91° 46' 15''
Mo'omomiPreserve, Molokai, Hawaii
Dewitt Jones (www.dewittjones.com)
Controlled by The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Mo'omomi Preserve offers a warm and exciting location for winter photography. Winter brings large waves crashing against the shore, and strong winds produce huge sand dunes. Hundreds of feet wide, these sand dunes can stretch for as long as a mile and can be used as a strong foreground element to landscape images, as in this image. The preserve also features more than 20 native plant species and 30 bird species, including sea eagles, sanderlings, and flightless ibis and ducks. It's recommended that you contact the Conservancy when arranging a visit, as access roads may be gated and locked. Its dirt roads require a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Mo'omomi Beach GPS Coordinates: Lat. 21° 12' Long.-157° 09'
Mount Crested Butte, Colorado
John Fielder (www.johnfielder.com)
While winter sports enthusiasts use chairlifts on Mount Crested Butte, they also provide photographers an awesome view of three wilderness areas. The peaks can be seen and photographed at a full 360 degrees. The area offers numerous creeks and rivers, such as the Slate River shown in this photograph, which can be used as a strong foreground element in landscapes, featuring snow, aspens and other wild growth. Snowfall can be as high as 10 inches during the heart of winter, with temperatures ranging between 20° F and below zero.
Mount Crested Butte GPS Coordinates: Lat. 38° 56' 15'' Long.-107° 1' 15''
Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island, Maine
Jerry and Marcy Monkman (www.ecophotography.com)
The rugged Maine coast features a variety of subject matter during the winter months, not the least of which is the ocean shore. Temperatures can vary from 30° F to below zero, so it's important to dress appropriately, whether you're walking along the shore or hiking into the hills. Be aware that several roads and trails may be closed during the winter months, so research ahead of time to ensure that you'll have access to a specific locale.
Otter Cliffs GPS Coordinates: Lat. 44° 18' 45'' Long.-68° 11' 15''
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
George D. Lepp (www.leppinstitute.com)
Although morning can be cold, you can expect comfortable temperatures around 50° F while photographing the refuge's wide variety of bird life. Images such as this one reveal why it's a popular location for bird photography workshops.The refuge offers ideal opportunities for shooting in the early morning, especially if you get out of bed before sunrise. Make a note of where other photographers are gathering, as this will direct you to where most of the activity is occurring. Spend the day along the roads looking for deer, hawks and roadrunners and then revisit the birds before sunset, when they return to roost for the evening.
Sandhill Cranes GPS Coordinates: Lat. 33° 48' 45'' Long.-106° 55' 00"
Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Bill Campbell (www.billcampbellphotography.com)
Photographers should take advantage of frost that develops on open meadows, which can add a strong winter feel to landscape and wildlife images. With temperatures dipping to below freezing, the occasional ice around waterfalls and icicles on rocks from numerous seeps make for a striking winterland effect. The national park extends through North Carolina and Tennessee, and includes numerous falls, which can be used as a great focal point in landscape photographs. Meigs Falls, seen here, is an easily accessible waterfall that can be viewed from the road and is located only 13 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Meigs Falls GPS Coordinates: Lat. 35° 40' 00'' Long.-83° 40' 00''
Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, Washington
Art Wolfe (www.artwolfe.com)
The texture of the evergreen forest creeping up the mountainsides, revealing craggy mountaintops, is made more dramatic with the presence of glacier-capped peaks. Even images that limit the color palette to just a few colors, as in this photograph, can lead to striking compositions. With one of the largest existing old-growth and temperate rain forests in North America, the park can receive as much as 15 inches of rainfall during winter, so be prepared to protect yourself and your gear. The large park includes forest, mountains and shorelines, and is easily navigable with numerous roads and trails. At lower elevations, you can expect temperatures from 30° F to 40° F. At higher elevations, snowfall of as much as 10 feet can be expected.
Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
David Muench (www.muenchphotography.com)
Heavy winter storms provide more than snow. When they break, storms deliver dramatic skies over peaks that rise more than 12,000 feet, such as those in the Grand Tetons. Landscape photographers can take advantage of the cloud formations by using them in compositions or capturing their reflections in any of the seven lakes that exist along the range's base. Although visiting soon after a storm provides stunning images, it's important to contact the visitor center to determine whether blizzards have led to any road closures. Along with the Grand Tetons, wildlife photographers may be able to capture images of moose and bison whose fur can be used to contrast the abundant snowfall.
Teton Range GPS Coordinates: Lat. 43° 44' 30'' Long.-110° 48' 00''
Yosemite National Park, California
William Neill (www.williamneill.com)
When snow falls in the Yosemite Valley, the park takes on a quality unlike no other. With relatively mild winters, the storms tend to be warmer, resulting in fresh snow falling off the trees soon after the storms let up. You may discover exciting scenics such as this image of El Capitan, so it's a good plan to time your visit for arrival soon after a storm. Yosemite receives most of its rainfall and snow between January and February. Even if there isn't snow, there will be ice on the rivers and the bare oaks in the meadows. Because temperatures can range between 20° F and 50° F, it's recommended that you dress in layers.
El Capitan GPS Coordinates: Lat. 37° 43' 30'' Long.-119° 38' 00''
Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida
Marc Muench (www.muenchphotography.com)
Winter in the Everglades is an alternative to snowcapped mountains for photography, as can be seen in this image, which evokes the location's wildness. With its cypress swamps, tropical plants and rich bird life, the park enjoys a special designation as the only subtropical preserve in North America. Average winter temperatures often range from 50° F to 70° F, although the occasional storm front can lead to unusual freezing conditions. Peak rains occur during the fall, so be prepared for occasional precipitation. While recent hurricanes have left some concessions heavily damaged, most of the park remains accessible.
Everglades Cypress Swamp GPS Coordinates: Lat. 25° 11' 15'' Long.-80° 26' 15''
Mono Lake State Park, Mono Lake, California
George D. Lepp (www.leppinstitute.com)
While their beauty is evident throughout the year, the tufa formations of Mono Lake take on a sense of solitude during winter, as is expressed in this photograph. Nestled against a backdrop of tall mountains that don a white coat of snow, the lake's surface can be used to reflect the dramatic range. You can expect very cold temperatures and strong winds during winter, as well as ice fogs that, though challenging in which to photograph, can produce unusual and stunning images. Because roads aren't cleared of snow in some areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary. You'll also need a pair of snowshoes.
Tufa Formations GPS Coordinates: Lat. 37° 57' 30'' Long.-118° 58' 45''