Top Tips For Winter Wildlife Photography

Shorter days and colder weather translate into fewer crowds for winter wildlife photography. Use this to your advantage.

With the advent of longer nights, shorter days and stretched shadows rendering angled light, we know that winter has got a grip on the calendar. Though many photographers silently sigh this time of year from being more limited in their craft, they shouldn’t. Winter weather brings an atmospheric magic—almost mystical and surreal—where pastels, whites and even black-and-white reign supreme.

Welcome to the world of winter, where solitude and graphic landscapes are sovereign. This is when atmospherics present with one-of-a-kind images. It’s also where the ferocity of winter weather and the sting of arctic winds can easily dampen a photographer’s spirit. But gain heart from the fact that this is the season when your unique photographic eye can really shine. Don’t let your camera hibernate—use these tips to maximize your winter wildlife photography.

Go Out In Harsh Weather

winter wildlife photography, bison in the snow

This capture of a bison in extreme weather works well because it tells the story of the icy cold and snow in almost-white-out conditions and a lonely bison with snow-matted fur. I was careful to focus on the eye and to avoid any snow fall from blurring that focus.

When the earth’s axis tilts, causing extreme weather as well as plunging temperatures, you know winter has arrived. But that doesn’t mean you should cuddle up around the hearth waiting for better conditions. Learn to embrace atmospheric weather, as it lends a unique, almost mystical quality to your images. Break out the tripod and slow down the shutter speed to erase falling snow. Or use a faster shutter speed to freeze the action of falling snow. And don’t forget to turn down the AF tracking sensitivity in your camera when shooting in falling snow.

The advantages of photographing wildlife in winter are many and can include later sunrise, crisp, clear days resulting in enhanced clarity, bluer skies and the simplicity of a white background. Dramatic weather conditions with heavy snow, frost-covered scenes and mist-shrouded landscapes along with low-angled sunlight and long shadows will produce images with mood, emotion and golden glow.

Harsh weather creates unique photo opportunities that will set your photos apart from others. The harsher the conditions, the better the photos can be. No cookie-cutter mold here.

Aaron Baggenstos is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning professional wildlife photographer with a passion for capturing images of nature and the natural world. He feels it is a real privilege to share memories through photo adventures while promoting positive and respectful connections with nature.

Passionate about conservation on the ground while fighting the right battles to help preserve and sustain our wild places, Aaron’s work spans the globe. He has supported countless conservation efforts contributing to help protect, preserve, and conserve biodiversity and habitats worldwide. His portfolio of photo tours includes Ultimate Alaska, Yellowstone in Winter, Kenya, Botswana, Wildlife of Madagascar, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, Tigers of India, Svalbard, and Pumas of Patagonia.

In a project designed to capture his learnings and field experience, Aaron recently launched a landmark series of instructional videos called “the ultimate wildlife photography course” designed to help aspiring photographers of all levels elevate their own photography portfolio to the next level. In this comprehensive video series Aaron masterfully illustrates his top photographic strategies and post-processing techniques in 8 categories. Notable topics include methods you can use to capture magical light, critical elements for wildlife photography composition, innovative techniques for capturing birds in flight, resources for understanding wildlife behavior, how to create award-winning portraits, and 9 instructional videos on post processing for distinctive images using Adobe Lightroom.

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Aaron’s Ultimate Wildlife Photography Course: