Winter photography: using snow as a canvas for shadows and sunsets

Fresh, white snow offers a simple contrast to shadows and golden hour colors from the sun.

These cold winter months in the Midwest can be brutal, but they sure are great for photography.

While it’s often cloudy this time of year, fresh snow becomes a blank, white canvas when the sun comes out, offering contrast for shadows and soaks up colors cast from the sun’s light.

If you live in an area that has winter, pay attention to how snow acts like a mirror reflecting light. During the middle of the day, harsh light bounces right back up, making it brighter than it gets in the summer. But at sunrise and sunset, the golden colors in the sky are reflected on the snow, transforming the landscape with an full warmth.

Shadows are my favorite in the winter — they appear longer than at other times of the year. The earth is tilted (which causes winter) and the sun is lower, casting shadows that stretch far. Having these contrasted against fresh white snow, it’s stunning. I think of it as a natural black and white photo, but in color.

Especially here in Michigan, where the weather seems to change every 15 minutes, I am often caught off guard by the beauty of the winter, which is why most of the photos were shot with my iPhone. I often don’t need to do anything special in the camera, especially at sunset, but sometimes I need to set my exposure for the snow. If it’s really bright outside, the image can be overexposed and blown own.

Mix the long shadows with the colors from a sunset, winter offers some of my favorite  stunning images, no filter needed.