This is the time of the year when our thoughts turn to the photographic possibilities of winter. For me that meant getting pictures that looked like a winter wonderland, whatever that meant. But it took me awhile to figure out why some of my pictures looked wintery yet others looked dull and, dare I say, depressing. It wasn’t the quality of light or the subject, they were the same in the good winter photos as they were in the not so good winter photos. And it wasn’t how much or how new the snow was in the photo. Piles of snow sometimes looked dreadful and at other times they looked like a winter wonderland. I wanted the wonderland.
To take a photo that looks like a winter wonderland (in other words, to take a marketable winter photo) there has to be snow on the trees. If there are no trees than there has to be snow on whatever is rising above the ground- grass, bushes, graves, etc. If there is only snow on the ground, no matter how pretty the light, the picture will lack that wonderland feeling.
So when is the best time to get snowy trees? Up north it is during the first snowfall when the trees are still warm; warm branches are stickier than the cold branches of mid-winter. Farther south it is during a storm that starts out raining and then finishes snowing; wet branches are stickier than dry ones. If you go out right after the storm has cleared or is clearing there will be lots of snow on all the branches and you will have a winter wonderland to photograph. If you wait, the wind will pick up and knock all the snow off and you’ll be left with a ho-hum scene.