Rule 1: Get your whites white
Camera meters are calibrated to see a scene as a mid-grey, which means that left to their own devices you’ll get that crisp white snow or frost looking dull and grey. The easiest way to overcome this problems is to use the exposure compensation function and dial in some + compensation.
Rule 2: Do your homework on where to go
All too often frost or snow doesn’t stay long, so before it disappears you need to know where there will be a good display of trees that will have the morning sun on them, where the best vantage point to give you that grand view is and whereabouts the sun will be setting to either give you that lovely cold haze that this time of the year throws up..
Rule 3: Feed the birds in your garden
Set up a feeder giving thought to where the morning sun will shine to illuminate it and try to ensure you give yourself as clean and clear a background as you can before you set up.
Rule 4: Keep an eye out for close ups
Smaller subjects that you might overlook such as a bramble leaf, a small pine cone or even an old bracken fern can take on a different character when they are coated with a heavy overnight frost or a dusting of snow – go in as tight as you can to fill the frame and let the ice crystals or powder really dominate the image.
Rule 5: Look for simple compositions
Many fields will often have single stand-alone trees which have bags of character as they display their bare branches and lines of bare hedgerows snaking across a white field offer unusual shapes and patterns.
Rule 6: Head to your local park/pond
The water based birds and animals in and around your local park and its ponds will become bolder in the cold. As large ponds freeze over mute swans, coots and mallards will tend to gather around any patches of open water (usually by any inlet pipe) bringing them a lot closer than they might normally do.
Rule 7: Look for patterns and footprints in the snow
These leave-behinds make for interesting images in their own right but are also useful as knowledge to store up for potential projects later in the year as many mammals are creatures of habit and will be following the same general paths throughout the year giving you an insight you might not have got without the snow.
Rule 8: Pack a telezoom lens
A 70-200mm or 70-300mm lens will enable you to get in close to your subject. Plus, with the high resolutions of modern DSLRs, you shouldn’t be afraid to crop into an image on your computer to increase the impact.
Rule 9: Visit a wildfowl reserve
There are a number of reserves run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) that are specifically geared towards the large numbers of various breeds of swan and geese that visit us in the winter months. All of these offer opportunities for dramatic shots as they feed the birds in huge numbers as dusk approaches every day.