Embracing winter as a street photographer

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Howard Yang

Howard Yang, Getty contributor. Born and raised in Taiwan and currently based in Toronto, Canada. 'I am inspired by my everyday surroundings, from the change of season to the ever evolving urban landscape. I believe there is a story behind every image, and my job is to interpret it through the lens.'”

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Winter in Canada can be long and dreadful, but over the years I’ve Learned to embrace winter as a photographer. Winter scenes are full of interesting visual elements, the falling snow, the icy conditions, and the people braving the cold all add a new dimension to an otherwise ordinary urban landscape.

Capturing winter street scenes can be quite a challenge, you need to have not only the right gear but also the right timing. By right gear, I am talking about proper winter clothing and footwear and the right camera gear. Personally speaking, I would be on the street and exposed to the cold for an hour or two so it’s important to dress warm and wear winter boots and gloves.

Take coffee breaks when you need to defrost. It would also help to have weather resistant cameras and lenses. You can certainly try using non-weather sealed gear, I have done that many times in the past without any issues or incidents.

To me, having weather sealed gear is more about peace of mind, it’s nice to be able to go out without constantly worrying about damaging your gear in the winter months. I have been shooting with the Fuji X-Pro2 and the XF35mm f/2 WR for about a year now, and I have put this kit to test many times as they have been through snow storms and freezing rain.

X-Pro2 taking on freezing rain
X-Pro2 taking on freezing rain

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to have the right timing. For example, after a day of freezing rain, the city turns into a winter wonderland and a playground for photographers. Personally I like how the falling snow transforms the city streets, so I would grab my camera and head out on a snowy day.

All pictures in this post were taken with the X-Pro2 and the XF35mm f/2. I find the 50mm equivalent focal length, well in this case 53mm to be exact, is perfect for winter street shots.

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There are different ways of capturing snowy scenes. Use a slower shutter speed if you want the snow to be streaky and a faster shutter speed will freeze the snowflakes and make them look like white dots. Generally speaking, I like to keep the shutter speed between 1/60s and 1/200s.

Sometimes you have whiteout conditions in a snowstorm, in situations like this, I would capture falling snow against a darker background and on people wearing darker coats, this would make the snow stand out.

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You should also experiment with different focal lengths, for example, a longer lens like a 85mm will compress snowy scenes and give the photos a nice look.

I’ll leave you with a few more photos in colour. Now bundle up, grab your camera, and go shooting!

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