Winter Is Coming – Photography with Mark Gilligan

In this blog we hear from Mark Gilligan, an award winning photographer.

Unlike the characters in the Game Of Thrones, we don’t have fire breathing dragons, ‘White Walkers’ or wildlings to contend with but as winter really IS coming, ‘we’ in the outdoor community look forward to the transformation of the landscape as this magical season takes hold.

Granted the icy roads are a pain to contend with but once you survey and make your way through the crisp snow on a bright, cold, azure blue-sky morning, you really do feel alive.

As a photographer it gives me the opportunity to view a regular haunt through completely different eyes, as well as bringing other new perspectives and places before me.

Some I normally pass by are now blanketed, covering their imperfections, and become appealing as they glisten in sun.

For me, one of the best viewpoints in my regular haunt of the Lake District is across Birker Fell. You enjoy an unequalled panorama that takes in Whinrigg, Illgill, Great Gable, the Scafells, Bow Fell, Hard Knott and Harter Fell.

Winter Photography Tips

If you are going to deliberate photographing in the snow, then consider taking a polariser with you as that will help to minimise the glare and produce a better-balanced shot for you. By that I mean good contrasts between land and sky. Get the sun behind you at roughly 90 degrees and snap away.

If you are towards the end of the day, looking through the viewfinder towards the sunset (only at its weakest strength), then shut the camera down and you may be served a natural starburst on the image too.

Hand held shots are fine providing you aren’t feeling the cold of course. A good tip is to ‘up the ISO’ on the camera to around 4-500. That way, on a bright day you will have a good enough shutter speed to combat any movement or shake.

Sunset on a snowy Duddon Valley

I took this shot on a day that I had no right to be able to get out and shoot.
What you don’t see on that photograph is just how windy and cold it was.

It was freezing and blowing a gale.

I recall my attempts trying to get out of the car and literally sliding straight onto the floor!

Luckily, I had my spikes in the car.

I love looking across moorland towards the high fells whatever the time of year but when it is covered or dusted with snow it takes it into another realm.

I am sure that you have a special place that means as much to you.

My advice at this time of year is always the same, go visit your usual places because the difference will be so marked that you will be glad you made the effort.

It can be just that. An effort.

Locations you usually drive towards then walk to will be, in the main, cut off. So your planning will take a little bit longer and you need to allow more time for your walk in.

Now that’s an idealistic viewpoint and of course the reality can be different. The threat of the season, the extreme cold and possibility of you losing your footing is never far away and without teaching anyone to suck eggs, its vital to have as much with you as possible to provide protection from the elements.

I go overboard and do take more than I need but better to be safe than sorry.
Whilst my camera gear is very well protected so am I.

I don’t know whether you knew but it rains in the lakes! In the past few months I have been using my EXTREM PRO 7000 to make sure I can stay out for longer and get the shot. It is without doubt the best ‘top’ coat I have ever used. It looks good too!

I went out in mid September, you know our late summer….. and I was in full wet weather gear.

Now that’s not too unusual but on top of that, as I ascended the Langdales, the wind chill had dropped the temperature down to 5 degrees. That coat with my fleece underneath did a great job for me. I was bone dry.

I exerted a lot of effort carrying the bag but I was like toast underneath.

As the weather begins to cool down even more then I recommend everyone to bring an insulation piece (for me it will be my Hydroloft gear that comes with me). Light but very effective.

People I walk with and teach on my workshops hear me utter a regular phrase when talking about photographic gear and themselves, “protect the investment”.

Enjoy the season and your photography!
Mark Gilligan