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Creative ways to put yourself in your winter landscape photography

Snow covered landscapes and glistering ice, I really look forward to capture the beauty of winter. To make the photos more interesting I like to put myself in the photos. Here are my best tips to take amazing self-portraits in the winter landscape.

E-M1 Mark III • M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO • 1/320s • F1.2 • ISO200

Before I head out to look for photo spots, I make sure I have everything I need with me (who hasn’t discovered that you forgot the memory card just when you arrived at your location…). I usually bring my camera, lenses, batteries, memory card, tripod, warm clothes and some snacks.

When everything is packed it’s time to head out. But how do I decide where to shoot then? I usually look for places that  have a contrast between highlight and shadows. When we get snow during winter it can be harder to find good spots because everything seems covered in white. Therefor I like to go to the forest. I usually look for glades or open spaces like in this photo below.

E-M1 Mark III • M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO • 115mm • 1/600s • F2.8 • ISO200

It was snowing like crazy that day which made all the trees completely covered in snow. I was walking through the forest and saw a small opening with a trail that led out on a big open field. It was the perfect place for me to take self-portraits that day because the opening created a tunnel through the trees where light (and cold snowy winds) where flooding in. The trees around the tunnel made a natural vignetting. This is what I always look for – natural contrasts between light and dark.

I decided to stand in the middle of the tunnel to make me pop out of the photo more. Note that I had dressed in dark clothes to not blend into the snowy landscape. I always use a tripod for self-portraits and then set my camera on time lapse mode. I usually set the camera to take around 20-30 photos with 1 second between every shot, so I don’t have to run between the camera and the spot I’m standing in after every shot. Now I can try different poses during one take before I head back to the camera to check if it turned out good.

One thing that can be a bit tricky is to get the focus right. I usually set the focus on a tree or stone that is standing right next to where I’m going to stand in the photo. Then I switch to manual focus so that I know that the camera won’t change focus during the shoot.

I always have the rule of thirds in my mind while compose the photo. In this case I broke that rule a little with me standing in the middle, but I thought it made the photo better. I try different compositions and angles during a photoshoot to make sure I make the most out of it and get the best composition possible for the shot. With time you will learn what will look good and what not.

Another thing that can make a composition better are leading lines and what better way to lead the viewer into the photo than a road or a trail. I love small dirt roads and think that they always add a depth to a photo. In the photo below I was driving down one of my favorite roads a cold frosty day and just had to make a quick stop to take some photos.

E-M1 Mark III • M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO • 1/1250s • F2.8 • ISO400

The dark spruces on the side of the road were the perfect complement to the light and frosty trees at the end of the road. With the camera on the tripod and the settings on time lapse mode I walked down the road and soaked in the silence and beauty of winter.

E-M1 Mark III • M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO • 1/1000s • F1.2 • ISO64

To Summarise what you should have in mind while taking self-portraits in a winter landscape:

  • Look for natural contrasts between light and dark in nature.
  • Make sure to wear clothes that don’t blend into the snow
  • Use a tripod and set your camera on time lapse mode
  • Try many different poses, compositions and angles

And most of all – enjoy the beauty of winter while you can!

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