As we now officially enter the season of winter there are few greater opportunities for dramatic lighting within your photographs than a good winter’s day. It can be an amazing time of the year to see and photograph wildlife where the winter light will add a great deal of impact to your images.
On the shortest day of the year, known as the winter solstice, the sun is at the lowest point within the southern sky. During the short winter days the sun does not rise exactly in the east, but instead rises just south of east and it sets south of west. The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
The winter solstice occurs in December and in the Northern Hemisphere the date marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year, which is why it is known as the shortest day and longest night. The solstice this year will occur on Friday 21st December at around 10.23pm UK time.
This shortest day will last for 7 hours 49 minutes, also this year the moon will be in its waning crescent phase so unless it’s cloudy, it should be a good opportunity to witness the moon as this event unfolds. As soon as the winter solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to spring.
During the winter months the UK as part of the Northern Hemisphere is at the closest point to the Sun, these days are shorter and the sun is low in the sky giving some of the best light a photographer can wish for. Its one of the best times for light throughout the seasons and being able to use this light on offer with transform your image.
With this knowledge in tact you can make best use not only of the light but the shorter daylight hours in which wildlife has to consume as much food as physically possible to survive the extreme weathers of winter. The way you use light in wildlife photography is very important for the overall effect you are wishing to capture. Try when possible to use the widest aperture you can on your telephoto lens rendering the background blurred, creating a smooth backdrop to your image.
Winter is a testing time for all living animals, always remember when working with wild animals they come first and the last thing you want to do is to impose yourself to quickly or scare the animal you’re wishing to photograph. It’s also very important to know that calories are burned off more quickly during the winter months so fieldcraft and respect have to be the first priorities of any wildlife photographer.
If the subject has to move to avoid you and this carries on there’s no telling the animal will be able to recoup those “spent” calories and energy avoiding you which in turn means your actions may result in the premature death of your subject should it struggle to find enough food. From your action nature will have a reaction something everyone that enters their world should adhere too and understand way before you press the cameras shutter button.
I hope this blog post has helped and inspired you to just get out there and photograph wildlife around at this time of year in some of the most dramatic light you could wish for, good luck.