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The advantages of winter photography

The advantages of winter photography

A friend of mine recently complained that she wished winter would hurry up and end so she could get out and start taking photographs again. No, no! I contradicted, winter is a fantastic time for taking photographs; all those heavy, brooding skies, the low sun, those stormy seas and frost-coated landscapes. It’s true I’ve never been a fan bright sunny scenes; give me grey, moody, atmospheric vistas any day. A sun high in the sky rarely makes for great photographs, even in summer landscapes generally appear more interesting shortly after dawn or close to sunset when the sun is low.

Sunrise over Cockwood Harbour at low tide, Exe Estuary, Devon.

Dawn over Cockwood Harbour on a frosty December morning.

In winter the sun follows a lower arc across the sky, thus a greater proportion of the available daylight produces what is, in my view, a more interesting light. A corollary of this is that the sun rises later and sets earlier, thus one does not have to drag oneself out of bed at five in the morning, or hang around until almost 10pm, to get those sunrise and sunset shots. It is true that some wildlife shots become trickier when one has to work with slower shutter speeds and wider apertures, and sometimes one has to rely on a tripod, not exactly condusive to high mobility for stalking some flighty subject. However, on the flip side, many animals become markedly less wary in winter, when hunger overrides normal timidity.

Heavy rain clouds above Teignmouth Pier, Teignmouth, Devon, England, UK.

A long exposure shot of Teignmouth Pier on a winter’s afternoon. Teignmouth, Devon.

I have always been fond of long exposure shots of moving water, producing beautiful soft, fluid and slightly surreal effects on waterfalls or waves on the beach. This does require low light levels entering the camera though, and in summer (even at minimum apertures) one must either stack neutral density filters in front of the lens, or get up really early or wait really late to get those shots around dawn or dusk. In winter it is so much easier, light levels are much lower anyway and as the sun rises and sets at a more acute angle to the horizon so the period of gloomy light lasts that much longer. This can be crucial if you are rushing between spots to try and find the best angle for you ‘money shot’. So dig out the winter boots and woolly hat and make the most of these chilly and gloomy landscapes. If nothing else it’s such a great excuse to eat lots of chocolate and warm up in a pub afterwards.

Teign Valley: Dunsford Wood and the River Teign, Christmas Day

Teign Valley: Dunsford Wood and the River Teign, Christmas Day

Steps Bridge, River Teign, Dunsford Wood, in mid-winter

Steps Bridge, River Teign, Dunsford Wood, in mid-winter


This has turned out to be one of the coldest Christmas days on record here in South Devon. Living on a boat, this has not escaped my attention. I haven’t been moving too far from the woodburner stove at night. For the second winter in a row I’ve been locked in ice for weeks on end. Around 2a.m. this morning I was woken by a loud bang and the whole boat shuddering strongly. It was around minus 10 Centigrade (~14deg F) and Maria had shifted as the ice thickened and expanded. Maria weighs around 30 tons. I climbed on to deck to check the thickness of the ice. A few hard thumps with an old wooden oar succeeded only in sending gunshot-like sounds ricocheting through the night and splintering the blade of the oar. I gave up and retired to bed. Maria is very stoutly built with oak frames at 11″ spacing, she wasn’t about to be crushed. I just don’t want the ice to get any thicker.
River Teign partially frozen, Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.

River Teign partially frozen, Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.

Christmas day was perfect: clear blue skies and crisp white snow underfoot. So after doing the family stuff in the morning I decided to take my son Calum walking in the Teign Valley through Dunsford Wood. It would certainly give us an appetite for Christmas dinner. Dunsford Wood is owned by the National Trust and Managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust, with footpaths through the woodland and along the riverbank open to the public. In summer it is a great place to see huge wood ant colonies and the rare High Brown Fritillary butterfly. Year round it’s a great place to walk; light open oak, hazel and ash woodland on one side and on the other the river lazily gliding past (or thundering past, depending on season). As it happened, the river was doing neither along much of the walk on Christmas Day; or if it was drifting past it was doing so beneath a carapace of ice. We were lucky enough spot a couple of dippers (Cinclus cinclus) as we walked ( a first for my son). We watched one for several minutes as it skipped between sheets of ice-covered river, occasionally slipping beneath the surface where it found ice-free water. Unfortunately the sun was already low and the only long lens I had with me was way too slow, so I didn’t bother getting it out. As the sun set and the temperature plumetted we headed back to the landrover hoping that the stove would still be going when we got back to the boat.

River Teign partially frozen, Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.

River Teign partially frozen, Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.

Snow-covered upland oak woodland along banks of the River Teign,  Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.

Snow-covered upland oak woodland along banks of the River Teign, Dunsford Wood, South Devon, UK.


As always my images are available to license and as fine art prints. If you’d like to use one of my images for publication please contact me. If you’d like a print of one of the images drop me an email stating image number and print size (costs for prints can be found on my fine art prints pages, e.g. Fine Art prints of Devon. Email me.
To my main website www.colinmunrophotography.com

Greeting for the Festive Season – Snow comes to Exeter

Greeting for the Festive Season – Snow comes to Exeter

Hungry geese paddle across the snow-covered footpath on Exeter's Quayside

Hungry geese paddle across the snow-covered footpath on Exeter's Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

Snow has finally arrived in Exeter, just in time for Christmas! Despite sub-zero conditions that have lasted for weeks we have escaped the heavy snowfalls that have paralysed much of the UK. This morning I woke to a couple of inches in light, fluffy snow covering my boat, and pretty much everything else. Just enough to look pretty without causing too much disruption.

Close up of an inquisitive goose in snow, Exeter Quayside

Close up of an inquisitive goose in snow, Exeter Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

Close-up of inquisitive goose standing in snow, Exeter Quayside

Close-up of inquisitive goose standing in snow, Exeter Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

www.colinmunrophotography.com

Loch Ness in winter, Scottish highlands; reflections and ghost ships

Loch Ness in winter, Scottish highlands; reflections and ghost ships

Frozen birch trees and snow-capped mountains reflected on the still waters of Loch Ness, Highlands, Scotland, UK.

Frozen birch trees and snow-capped mountains reflected on the still waters of Loch Ness, Highlands, Scotland, UK. Image MBI000124.

Reflections on still water, Loch Ness, mid-winter.

We’ve just had a pretty hard winter, by UK standards. The coldest for about eighteen years. I didn’t manage to get up to Scotland this winter so this is an image for a few winters back. I am originally from this part of the World so it brought back childhood memories.
A winter high had settled over the highlands, leaving the air still, clear and bitingly cold. A dense layer of fog slowly rolled across the surface of the loch. Fog such as this is known as evaporation fog or steam fog, as the warmer water of the loch evaporates into the bitterly cold air above. Loch Ness is the second largest, by surface area, loch in Scotland (and lake in Britain), second to Loch Lomond. At 230 metres deep its volume is far greater and so it is the largest freshwater body in Britain, containing more freshwater than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. Thus in winter this huge mass of water cools slowly, rarely falling below 5 degrees C. As I watched a survey vessel appeared out of the fog like a ghostly apparition. A few moments later it was lost in the fog again like a modern-aday Marie Celeste. As always my images are available for licensed use. If you’d like to use any of my images just email me

Like a ghost ship, a survey vessel cruises through winter fog across Loch Ness

Like a ghost ship, a survey vessel cruises through winter fog across Loch Ness. Image MBI000029