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Winter Photography Techniques

Undisturbed, quiet and beautiful, photographing winter is a season like no other. From the smallest ice crystal to the great expanse of a snow-covered field, the cold of winter is the visual architect for an endlessly evolving storyline. For photographers it is a pure white canvas for contemplation and creativity.

The winter months provide us with a unique perspective of the outside world; one in which most color is relatively unseen. Leafless tree branches crack the sky from autumn’s ritual and nearly all other color is hidden by a blanket of white snow. These sometimes harsh conditions might keep some photographers inside with the camera bag snuggled away until the color of spring and warmth returns. With the right gear, however, and a keen eye, winter is a blessing and an opportunity to explore the visual wonders it provides.

One of the greatest architects of winter photography opportunities is the wind, eroding and redepositing snow crystals, creating lines and adding visual movement to any winter scene.

Even though color’s impact is subtle and quiet during the snowy months of winter, color can be dynamic and add a splash of excitement to any monochromatic scene.

Trees make great subjects in any season, but in winter they can be even more expressive. Their branches provide the compositional framework and in winter this potential is amplified with the absence of leaves. I love trees!

Pure white snow is a powerful reflector and with the warm light of alpenglow and the golden hours at sunrise and sunset, this benefit becomes even more powerful.

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There are many variables that contribute to a successful winter photography adventure, but being prepared for the cold might be the most significant. Here are a few helpful tips:

One of my all-time favorite places to photograph in the snowy white of winter is Yellowstone National Park and we are really excited to announce that DJP Workshops will be returning to Yellowstone in February of 2021. A maximum of only seven spots are available and the workshop will fill quickly. For workshop information, go to!

Here’s to the beauty of winter!


  • Doug Johnson is a Colorado native now living in Missoula, Montana. Before a life-changing pursuit of photographic art, he was an outdoor educator for more than 20 years, passionately teaching people backcountry skills in navigation, mountaineering, avalanche awareness and wilderness first aid. Since graduating from RMSP's Summer Intensive program in 1996, Doug's work has covered many diverse projects in the documentary, commercial, fine art and educational fields. Assignments have taken him from coyote shooting in Wyoming to the last stages of a woman’s life to the graffiti-covered alleys and abandoned buildings of Denver. He is currently involved in an ongoing project called Art Music, which fuses the art of photography with live musical performance. His educational philosophy is fun, intuitive and full of creative persistence. No matter where you are in your photographic journey, Doug's balance of the aesthetic with the technical can help you further express your unique vision.

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