Essential gear for winter photography

Essential gear for winter photography

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The nights are getting darker and the inevitable is happening! Summer will soon start to fade and give in to fall which happens to be one of my favourite seasons as a photographer. The colours and mood it brings always bring a smile to my face.  Soon thereafter winter will reign.

As working photo guide I often get asked by photographers what gear to bring to maximize their chances for good photographs. While there might be some gear that gives you slight advantages over others it won’t make or break your trip. However, I’m going to throw a list together of things that you definitely should leave home without!

Essential gear for winter photography


An essential piece of gear. The sturdier the better! Almost everyone coming to Iceland will want to photograph the northern lights or some of the many majestic waterfalls the country has to offer. Often the best way to get a pleasing image of a waterfall is to shoot with longer shutter speeds. Anything from 1-30 seconds is not uncommon. Needless to say, you won’t be able to handhold your camera and get a sharp image so the tripod is key. The same could be said about the northern lights. Shutter speeds often range from 5-15 seconds and the camera needs to stay very still. In a windy situation, a sturdy tripod is key for success!

Essential gear for winter photography


I’m not going to say they are essential like the tripod, BUT, if you want those silky smooth waterfall images you have to be able to shoot at longer shutter speeds. For that to happen, us photographers use ND filters (i.e. neutral density filters). They basically work like sunglasses for your lens. Limiting the amount of light reaching your camera's sensor. Hence letting you shoot at longer shutter speeds.

Personally I use the LEE filter system which is quite expensive but very high quality. In my kit I carry the following:

  • 6 stop nd filter – reducing the amount of light 6x times
  • 10 stop nd filter – reducing the amount of light 10x times
  • 3 stop soft graduated filter – I use to balance the light difference between foreground and sky
  • Lee 105mm polarizer – great for reducing glare on non-metallic objects and enhancing colour

Essential gear for winter photography
Essential gear for winter photography

Regarding cameras and lenses, I suggest to people to stick to what they have. Bringing loads of new unfamiliar gear can be too confusing to people and therefore just ends up ruining opportunities rather than presenting new ones.

I would, however, like to point one thing out especially regarding the northern lights. To photograph them a faster lens is much appreciated and will help improve picture quality. A good wide-angle lens with an f/2.8 or faster will definitely help in catching that unforgettable image!

If you are headed to Iceland this winter to join us for the aurora hunt I wish you the best of luck and may the force be with you!

Essential gear for winter photography

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