Great photography during the winter

An online talk that gives inspirational ideas about what to photograph during the cold and short days of winter

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In Nigel’s November talk, held live on 17th Nov, he aimed to inspire photographers not to put their cameras away during the winter. There is some great photography during the winter months, those short cold days a time of day-long low sunlight, dramatic storms, and over-wintering wildlife.

A recording of this talk is now on You Tube, and you can watch it here. Just click on the link below.

Looking for subjects during the winter months

There is a temptation for photographers to go into hibernation during the winter, putting the camera safely away until the weather improves in spring. But this would be a major mistake as there is really is the possibility of great photography during the winter months.

With the sun continually low in the sky, it is perfectly possible to do some magnificent, moody landscape photography right throughout the day. Moreover, with dawn/sunrise and sunset/dusk both at very civilised times of day, it becomes much easier to shoot during these prime photogaphy periods.

Admittedly, the sun doesn’t shine a whole lot of the time during winter – hence the temptation to hibernate – but when it does then the light can be magnificent. Moreover, even when it isn’t shining, the frequent storms that sweep in from the Atlantic provide some very wild, dramatic weather for landscape photography, both on the coast and inland. This is particularly so just after the main storm front has passed through, a time when the clouds usually break, providing some great – though rapidly changing – light, along with a succession of rainbows.

Wildlife photography too can still be worked on to great effect during the winter. Although many mammals hibernate, others do not, including foxes and all our deer species. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, mostly wetland waders, though also woodland and garden birds, arrive in the UK from colder climates to over-winter here. Their numbers greatly swell local bird populations, especially in marshes, lakes and along the coast, providing opportunities for some fantastic avian wildlife photography.

Great Photography during the Winter

Fog and frost

Winter is of course the main time for fog and frost, most especially during the early morning, but also often throughout the day and in the evening.

Fog and frost provide some of the most effective and beautiful opportunities for great photography during the winter, the latter adding a stunning sparkle and sheen to any landscape and/or foliage scene. Fog – especially ground fog – really makes for some ethereal and often monochromatic scenes, reducing complex details to simplistic outlines that can have fantastic photographic impact. This is most especially so when some sunlight is still visible through the fog, providing some delicate illumination.

Snow and ice

Not surprisingly, no discussion of great photography during the winter would be complete without snow and ice. The latter can quite transform any normally watery scene, whether it be an entire lake, a puddle or just a dripping gutter. Convert that water to ice, and suddenly we have beautiful crack and freezing patterns, pointed daggers of icicles, often quite blue when seen in low light levels, and rendered even more magical if frost and/or snow are also present.

Snow, of course, completely transforms an entire landscape, creating wholly monochromatic scenes when the sky is cloudy, and truly dynamic high contrast landscapes when under a blue sky. Wide vistas, closer landscape elements, or really close-up details (such as of snow or ice gripping vegetation) all make for stunning subjects in this kind of environment. Shortly before sunset (or shortly after sunrise), snow will usually reflect the sun’s pink glow magnificently, creating some wonderfully delicate colours.

Great photography during the winter

Putting it all together

With so many photographic opportunities available during the winter months, opportunities that don’t exist at any other time of year, there’s really no excuse for not keeping on shooting throughout this season. Pick your subject matter(s) and get cracking!

Just keep an eye on the weather forecast, and prepare to head on out whenever the right weather seems to be heading your way. Just wrap up warm and waterproof and enjoy the outdoors at a time of year when too few people get outside often enough.

A word of caution

Although I’m really enthusiastic to get everyone doing some great photography during the winter months, I do need to sound a few words of caution. Not surprisingly, with storms, rain, frost, ice and snow all prevalent at this time of year, some care and preparation are needed. And not just simply to keep warm and dry.

Plan carefully, drive carefully, and in really bad weather don’t push yourself further than you feel comfortable. Think ahead of all the things that could go wrong and prepare accordingly.

The top of a high cliff is no place to be at the height of an Atlantic storm, for example. You would probably find it hard to do much photography anyway. It’s better to wait until the main storm front has passed, winds have eased slightly and the light has improved. You’ll still get hugely impressive storm photos and with a lot less risk to yourself.

If venturing out in snow and/or ice make sure you’re prepared: take food and drink, extra warm and dry layers, a shovel, sheets of a material that can be pushed under slipping tyres to give them grip, and even a tow rope, just in case.

And of course, as always, make sure someone else knows where you’re going, and also ensure that you have a phone with a fully charged battery.

Once you’re equipped and prepared you’re well protected. Get out there and enjoy the winter photography!

Great photography during the winter

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Storytelling Through Photography

Creating a set of images that tell a story

My September 2021 online photography talk was held recently, the subject this time Storytelling Through Photography. This is the art of creating a set of images that tell a story about an event, a place or a person, something that is very different from simply shooting high quality stand-alone images. When telling a story, the images must work together as a team, with no single image dominating the others and distracting attention away from the aim of the story.

The talk is now available on You Tube, and so can be watched here. Just click on the image below to launch the video.

The essentials of building a photographic story

The talk runs through a series of tips about how to go about storytelling through photography. These can be summarised as follows:

  • The aim is to create a set of photos that work together as a ‘team’, building the story and without any single photo dominating the collection;
  • Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Without these, it is just a collection of uncoordinated images;
  • The beginning should consist of a couple of images that set the scene – the type of environment or general location for instance;
  • The end should again consist of a couple of images that round off the story, giving a summary of what transpired or the end-result of whatever process is described in the story;
  • The middle is the main meat of the story and is the longest section, consisting of a string of images that describe the heart of the story, such as what is happening, arranged in a sequence that a viewer can follow;
  • Production of technical perfection and spectacular stand-out images is secondary: telling the story is paramount. Things often happen so quickly and unexpectedly in a story-telling situation that perfection has to take a back seat. However, if there is time to craft perfect images then so much the better;
  • Report and record what you see impartially – leave any preconceptions or prejudices behind and photograph what you actually see, not what you think you ought to see or what you would like to see. If you want to put a particular slant on a story, do this at the post-photography image editing phase, not during the actual photography.
Storytelling through photography: Philippine crocodile

Examples of storytelling through photography

To illustrate the process of storytelling through photography, the talk uses images from two of Nigel’s own stories: conservation work with the Philippine Crocodile and reindeer herding in Lapland, in the far north of Sweden. These can be summarised as follows:

1. Conservation work with the Philippine Crocodile: This is the world’s most endangererd crocodile, and the photography in this story illustrated the work of the Mabuwaya Foundation in rearing infant crocodiles in captivity and then releasing them back into the wild once they were large enough to fend off predators.

The photography started with a couple of images that set the scene, one showing the forest and lake habitat, another the team of workers involved. The main part of the story then illustrated the work in catching captively reared crocodiles, taking their vital statistics, transporting them into a nearby national park, and then releasing them into a lake. The final images rounded off the story by showing a crocodile being released and then swimming as a free, wild crocodile in the lake.

Storytelling through photography: Philippine crocodile

2. Reindeer herding in Lapland: Every autumn the Sami people in the far north of Sweden round up their reindeer from the mountains, bring them down to lower winter pastures, and temporarily corral them in order to mark out ownership of newborn deer and to kill some of the older males for winter meat.

The photography in this story illustrated the corralling process and the capturing of both young deer and mature males. The story begins with a couple of images that introduce the environment, showing the wild mountains where the reindeer spend the summer, photographed from a helicopter just as the first winter snows arrived. The images of the main story showed thousands of corralled reindeer, with the Sami people picking out and lassooing newborn animals and mature males. The story rounds off with a summary of the family nature of this process, with a picnic once the work is done, including the presence of the family’s pet albino reindeer.

Storytelling through photography: Reindeer herding

The importance of storytelling through photography

Most photographic tuition available in one form or another concentrates on teaching people how to create fantastic single standalone images, but don’t look at the storytelling process at all. This is a shame, since throughout its history telling stories has been one of the most important roles of photography. It is a skill worth cultivating. Hopefully, the tips in this talk will help give you some ideas about how to go about storytelling through photography.

Storytelling through photography: Reindeer herding

The next talk

The next online photography talk will be about macro photography, and will be held on Wednesday 20th October at 8pm (BST). It’s free to join, just click on the link below to fill in and submit the form. This will enable me to send you the link.

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Blurred Motion Photography

The art of deliberately blurring your subject in stills photography

My July online photography talk came at the end of the month, and this time covered blurred motion photography. This is, in other words, the art 0f deliberately blurring your subject to put over the sense of movement, energy and dynamism.

A recording of that talk is now available via You Tube, and you can watch it here. Just click on the image below and the talk will launch. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any queries or comments just get in touch.

The art of subject blurring

This talk, Blurred Motion Photography, covered a range of techniques and scenarios in which you would want to blur your subject to put over the sense of movement.

The technique is particularly associated with landscape photography, most especially in blurring the movement of water, whether that be the sea, with waves rolling into shore, or perhaps a fast-flowing river running over and round rocks.

Blurred motion photography is used not just in landscapes but also in wildlife, people and street life (particularly traffic after dark), where all kinds of activities can be blurred to give the sense of movement. So the beating wings of a bird, the movements of a working person and the colourful lines of traffic tail-lights are all great examples of commonly blurred moving subjects. Even a blurred background as the camera pans to keep up with a fast-moving object (such as a bird, a sportsman or traffic) is part of this technique.

Blurred Motion Photography: Botallack tin mines

The technique of blurred motion photography

In essence, it is a very simple thing to do. Just put the camera on a tripod and use a long exposure, thus ensuring that anything moving in the frame will be blurred.

Of course, this can only be achieved within the limits of how far the lens aperture can be stopped down. The narrower you have this (ie the higher the f-number) then the less light that is allowed through to the sensor, and hence the longer the shutter needs to be open to compensate. Of course, there is a limit to how narrow the aperture can be, and once you’ve reached that limit any attempt to make the exposure time longer will just allow in too much light and result in over-exposure.

So doing this in bright sunlight will often require you to add a neutral density filter to the front of the lens, thus cutting down the amount of light getting into the lens, and mimicking low-light conditions. This is particularly so for landscape photography. Things may still work well in bright sunlight, however, if you’re intending to blur the motion of something that is moving really quite fast, such as a fast-flying bird or free-flowing traffic.

Without filters, blurred motion photography still works well in dull, overcast conditions, at dusk, dawn and at night, any of which will yield great results.

Blurred Motion Photography: Seashore ice in Iceland

How much blur?

Just how much blur you need will depend on the effect you’re trying to generate and how fast your subject is moving. For example, when photographing surf rolling onto a beach, or a mountain stream babbling around rocks, an exposure of several seconds will result in the subject completely blurring out. A wave will become quite invisible in itself, replaced by a very soft, often white, smooth silken effect that, though still depicting movement, is actually very calming and which will serve to isolate a static object (such as a rock) from the rest of the view, and removing any clutter.

Replace that very long exposure with a rather faster one, say one-tenth of a second, and the blur will become rather jagged, producing what I call a ‘shards of glass’ effect, with sprays of water clearly visible. The effect now is very restless and dynamic, very different from the smooth ‘white-out’ of the long exposure.

It’s a similar thing with photography of evening traffic. How long the exposure needs to be depends very much on the amount of traffic and how fast it’s going. However, an exposure of several seconds will be enough for the individual vehicles to become quite invisible, replaced by colourful, continuous red tail-light lines. It’s a highly effective way of illustrating the evening life of any urban district. Using a shorter exposure – say one-tenth of a second – in this scenario is less effective, as the vehicles become visible and the tail-light streams become broken up into dashes that don’t link up into a continuous stream.

Blurred Motion Photography: the static subject

Blurred motion photography of static subjects

This may sound a little odd, but it is sometimes possible to give the sense of blurred motion to a static object. It works particularly well with evening lights, and is achieved by moving the camera during an exposure lasting a few seconds.

This movement may consist of moving the whole camera (while on a tripod), or of turning the zoom ring on a zoom lens, something that produces quite a dramatic and very dynamic effect.

Getting stuck in

Blurred motion photography is a technique that has very variable and unpredictable results. The only true way to really hone one’s skills in this is to get stuck in and just play! Enjoy it, and experiment as much as you can.

Blurred Motion Photography: the disco

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February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news

Spring is almost here (honest!)

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. Grey seal on Teignmouth beach.
A Grey Seal on the beach at Teignmouth, Devon, Great Britain.

Spring photography is almost possible

Welcome to the February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news, the first time our monthly newsletter has been posted on the blog. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

It may not feel like it right now, but spring is kicking off all around us, from longer days, to more birdsong, to the first daffodils and snowdrops.

So, if you’ve forgotten where you put your camera during winter lockdown, it’s time to hunt around, dig it out and get ready for a few photo shoots. Even if Covid restrictions continue, you should be able to get out and about in your local area, with reasonable seclusion, to photograph many of the burgeoning signs of spring.

The above Grey Seal photo, while hardly a harbinger of spring, is nevertheless an indicator of just what luck you can have with subject matter close to home. This lone male was photographed last week, inside the harbour at Teignmouth, just a couple of miles from my home.

While you’re thinking about what you might be photographing this spring, you can find the following items in this month’s newsletter:

January’s talk can now be watched online

February’s talk: Low Light Photography

Writing reviews of Nigel Hicks Photography: and getting a discount voucher

This year’s photography workshops

Would you like to have our regular newsletters sent straight to your inbox? To sign up for our mailing list click on the link below.

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. January's Focus talk.

Watch January’s Focus talk online any time

My January talk, Focus: the third critical component of successful photography, went ahead live on the 27th of the month. The talk revolved around the central idea that good focus is much more than just getting your subject sharp, although of course that is critical. It also involves important decisions about how much of the rest of the image should be sharp too, whether that be absolutely all of it, or just a thin slice, for example.

The implications of this, and the use of some techniques, were illustrated for wide-angle landscapes, telephoto portraiture, wildlife, interiors, and macro photography. The use of wide-angle or telephoto lens, narrow or wide-open lens aperture was described as an essential part of controlling depth of field. As a finale, the possible use of image stacking in Photoshop – that is. shooting a series of identical images that are focussed at slightly different points in the view, and then blending them together in the computer- was introduced.

A video of the whole talk can now be watched online. Click the link below to see it.

February’s talk: Low Light Photography

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. Clifton Suspension Bridge at dusk, Bristol.

February’s online talk is already looming on the horizon, scheduled to be held on:

Wed 24th Feb, at 8pm

Covering low light photography, in this talk I’ll introduce a range of techniques that can be applied in a variety of low light situations, including: Dark stormy days; Rural, urban and coastal landscapes at sunset; Photography at dusk; Photography at night: events, from carnivals to fireworks; Photography at night: the night sky. Not surprisingly, this talk will give only a general introduction to each of these, as any of them could easily be the subject of a whole talk by themselves (and perhaps will be in the future!), but this should give you pointers to a range of generally applicable techniques.

As always, this talk will be completely free to join. There is now a Donation button on the talks’ registration page, so if you feel like contributing to my costs that would be wonderful. But you should feel no compulsion.

To register for this talk, and the subsequent one (on 24th March, Wildlife Photography), click on the link below, and then fill in and submit the form.

I’ll look forward to seeing you online!

Writing reviews for my photography services

As previewed in my last newsletter, I now have an up-to-date system for reviews of my photography services up and running on the Nigel Hicks Photography website.

So if you’ve ever received any of my services, whether a photography course or tour, a talk (online or in person), or some commercial photography, then I’d be delighted if you would like to write a review.

These photography service reviews run separately from those for my books, prints and cards: for these you need to go to each product in the Products part of the website.

Discount coupon reward

As a big thankyou I’m giving a 10% discount voucher, for use anywhere on the Nigel Hicks Photography website, to anyone who writes a review: 20% if you write more than one. Each coupon will be valid until 30th June, and can be used just once.


To write a photography service review click on the link below.

A Goldfinch on a blackthorn tree in spring flower.

This year’s photography workshops

With optimism slowly growing about our future and the kind of year 2021 is likely to be, I feel increasingly hopeful about the possibility of being able to run at least most of my workshops this year.

This year’s programme is scheduled to kick off on 21st March with Low Light Photography, in Exmouth. Admittedly, there is still some doubt as to whether this course will be able to go ahead – inevitably a lot hinges on how much longer lockdown lasts, and what any post-lockdown tier restrictions are likely to be like. As you can imagine, I’m watching this closely, but I won’t make a firm decision until nearer the date. 

Regardless of whether or not this spring low light course has to be shelved, I’m considering introducing a low light course in November, if I can find the right date (viz a viz sunset, low tide and moon times). So, if you want to come on a low light photography course but are nervous about March, keep a look out for an autumn event.

Subsequent courses

The second course this spring is not until 17th April, South Devon Coastal Photography, at Bantham and Bigbury, not surprisingly on the coast of south Devon. I’m quite optimistic this will be able to go ahead, along with all courses that follow.

The line-up for all of this year’s photography workshops is:

21st March; Low Light Photography, Exmouth, Devon.

17th April; South Devon Coastal Photography, Bantham and Bigbury, Devon.

24th April; Wildlife Photography, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

16th May; Architecture and Travel Photography, Bath, Bath and NE Somerset.

22nd May; Exmoor in Spring; Tarr Steps and Lynton, Somerset and Devon.

29th May; Dartmoor in Spring, Dartmoor National Park, Devon.

2nd Oct; Jurassic Coast Photography, Lyme Regis and Charmouth, Dorset.

16th Oct; Exmoor in Autumn, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

23rd Oct; Wildlife Photography, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

30th Oct, Dartmoor in Autumn, Dartmoor National Park, Devon.



I hope you’ll like some of these courses and will decide to give yourself something to look forward to by booking onto any of them.

Refunds and deferrments

Rest assured that, if you are booked onto a course that has to be postponed or cancelled, then as with last year, you will have a full range of options, namely:

  • To accept the new date (for a postponed course);
  • To transfer to another course of your choosing;
  • Simply to defer your booking to an as-yet undefined future event;
  • Have a full refund.

Hopefully, things won’t come to this, but I want to put your mind at rest, that you will not lose any money you’ve paid.

To get all the details of the workshops programme, click on the link below:

A photography course shooting the sunset

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Stunning Landscape Photography

Nigel’s fourth online photography talk was held on 9th December 2020

My December 2020 photography talk was held live on 9th December, entitled Stunning Landscape Photography. Using my own photography, this was an exploration and overview of the main types of landscape photography and some of the techniques used to capture some stunning landscape images.

Watch the recorded Stunning Landscape Photography talk here

You can watch the whole talk here. Simply click on the photo to start the video. Naturally, I hope you’ll like the talk, and of course feel free to subscribe to my channel.

About the talk

‘Genres’ of landscape photography

The talk started off with a brief repetition of a previous talk by saying that the best images come about as a result of simple compositions, ones with a single, strong subject that dominates the frame, unimpeded by confusing clutter or competition from other potential subjects.

It then moved on to an overview of the main categories of landscape photography, summarised as:

  • Wholly natural landscapes
  • Landscapes that contain people as secondary, supporting elements
  • Views that contain buildings or other manmade structures as secondary, supporting elements
  • Generic landscape images, views or details that could be just about anywhere and which convey wholly beauty and/or mood
  • Views of famous locations but which are more than just travel shots, containing strong mood and beauty elements.
Stunning landscape photography

Some technical stuff

I then went on to cover the one piece of kit that is essential to landscape photography but which many people overlook: neutral density graduated filters, usually abbreviated to just ND grads.

I introduced what they look like and what types are available, as well as showing how they fit onto a camera. Their use in landscape photography was then summarised using before-and-after photography.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I covered why it is important to use them. The first reason is to overcome the digital sensor’s inability to see as large a contrast range as the human eye can, changing disappointing images into views that look every bit as beautiful as the original scene did to the eye.

The second reason can be to enhance the drama of a sky, particularly on a stormy day, for example turning a moderately grey, cloud-strewn sky into an angry cauldron of roaring clouds!

Stunning landscape photography

A range of landscape environments

The second half of the talk covered stunning landscape photography in a range of environments, which included:

  • The sea and coastline
  • Woodlands and forests
  • Moorlands
  • Rivers and waterfalls

Photographs shot in these environments showed the creative power of photographing into the light, or at least side-on, and particularly with the use of an ND grad filter. Such views were commonly shot very early or very late in the day when the sun was low, though I also demonstrated the use of a high tropical sun.

When talking about photography of water, particularly moving water, I compared and contrasted the techniques and results of slow shutter speed to blur movement, versus a fast shutter speed to freeze it. When done well, the results give very different moods and tell very different stories.

When it came to photography in woodlands, I introduced the idea that it is so much easier to photograph in flat light, such as under cloudy skies or in fog, in order to have the woodland composition shown off to its best. In addition, I showed the importance of using clearings created by such items as streams to enable you to step back from the chaos of the trees and so create meaningful compositions.

Stunning landscape photography

Panoramics introduced

In the final few minutes of the talk I introduced panoramic photography, firstly as created simply by cropping a standared image into a narrow rectangle. My main approach, however, was the shooting of multiple images followed by stitching in Photoshop. This was illustrated with a number of images that were a mix of coastal, mountain and urban views.

Stunning landscape photography

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