Photography / Tips and Solutions

Five Winter Destinations and the Cameras to Photograph Them

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Any place can be a destination in the winter, but the general idea is to explore a few locations that offer wonderful photographic possibilities in winter that they might not offer in summer. We can always blend in a bit of that warm escapism we all crave after a few months of short days, snow, and cold.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

“Starved what?” you might ask, with a stereotypical New Yorker’s view of the world, but this Central Illinois park is loaded with scenic trails, steep rock walls, and verdant valleys not typical of the generally flat Midwestern farmlands that surround it. Most relevant to this article is that within the eighteen canyons that make up this state park are many waterfalls, which in winter become icefalls and ice caves that are ideal for climbing, exploring and, of course, photographing. Dramatic photos of hardy men and women climbing up steep ice sheets are reason alone to bring along your 300mm f/4 prime telephoto lens attached to a fast-focusing, burst shooter such as the Nikon D500 DSLR. In addition, Starved Rock is known for the winter arrival of migrating bald eagles and with bare branches and ice floes offering clear views, the Nikon TC-20E III 2.0x Teleconverter will double the magnification of that 300mm lens.

Lake Reschen and South Tyrol, Italy

The Tyrol region of northern Italy and Austria offers some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the world. Perhaps the mountains aren’t as high as the Himalayas nor as perfect as the Matterhorn or Chamonix, France to the west, but for craggy peaks dusted with snow, villages with that one perfectly placed bell tower, and music echoing through the valley, this is the place to visit. And speaking of bell towers, make the trip to Lake Reschen, which was created in the 1940s, when the area was damned and the towns of Graun and Reschen were submerged. The bell tower, which dates to the 14th Century, can be reached by foot when the lake freezes and, with mountains in the distance, makes for great photo opportunities. Also worth a visit is the Messner Mountain Museum and, of course, there is much skiing in the region. For that I recommend a pocketable “tough” camera from Olympus, particularly the TOUGH TG-5 Digital Camera, which is the most advanced of the various water/crush-/shock-/freeze- and dustproof point-and-shoots available from many manufacturers.

Urho Kekkonen National Park, Finland

Way up north in Finland is this remote and barren national park, but before the words north, remote, and barren have you skipping to the next entry, realize that during peak winter months this spot offers spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis. A great photo of the Northern Lights is a dream for many photographers, and if you are willing to endure the trek, this is the place to make that dream come true. If roughing it in the expansive cold near the Russian border is not your thing, be it known that within this national park exists the Hotel Kakslauttanen and its Igloo Village. The hotel offers a traditional inn with smoke sauna and ice bar. It also has ice igloos for the bold, but the real draw is the heated glass igloos that allow you to lie in bed and look at (and photograph) the star-filled sky and the Aurora Borealis over the Arctic Circle. For this trip, I would bring a full-frame DSLR—perhaps the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR for its impeccable feature set, including 4K video—and the new EF 24-105mm f/4L lens for its durability and versatility, enabling wide shots of the night sky, as well as normal and telephoto perspectives. Others might suggest a fast, wide-angle prime for night-sky photography, such as the EF 24mm f/1.4L, but don’t forget a tripod and cable release. For more on photographing the Northern Lights, take a look at the B&H Explora article, 8 Questions About Photographing the Aurora, with our own Gabe Biderman.

New Orleans, Louisiana

We’ll let The Big Easy stand in for all the warm-weather locations that might be better to visit in the winter. For starters, the crowds, the prices, and the temperatures are all less than they would be at other times of the year and the city still puts out its music, food, and bons temps all year ’round. If photographing real people living their real lives is your thing, you’re also better off because the big ticket events like Halloween, Jazz Fest, and Mardi Gras happen at other times of the year and, from my experience, New Orleans is a great city to just walk (or bike) and get lost, meet people, and check out the architecture, the river, and the street scenes. Of course, if spectacle you crave, Mardi Gras is usually in February, which still counts as winter where I’m from. For NOLA, I would suggest a healthy wide-angle lens on a compact camera, or perhaps the fixed lens Fujifilm X100F Digital Camera, with its retro charm and 35mm equivalent fixed lens, for street photography and snaps of all that delicious food and drink—from oysters to yakamein to Reveillon dinners to a sip of Sazerac.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Our winter is their summer, so no need for the hat and gloves when you visit, but be sure to bring your appetite—not just for the steak and wine that is synonymous with Argentine cuisine—but an appetite for life, as Argentines and particularly Porteños (inhabitants of the port city of Buenos Aires) like to enjoy friends and family over long dinners that morph into late nights. There is also a vibrant art and culture scene in the cities of Argentina that will keep you busy with more than just tango. In my experience, the contrasts within Buenos Aires make for ideal street photography, so bring a discreet but quite advanced point-and-shoot, such as the Sony RX100 V, or even a compact mirrorless like the Olympus PEN-F with a 17mm f/1.8 lens.

Now, if you want to get out of the city to see some of the incredible natural landscapes that Argentina offers, I suggest heading north to the red rocks of Salta, the mountains to the south in Patagonia, or even across the Rio de La Plata to the beaches of Uruguay, and for these more rugged terrains, bring the full frame Pentax K-1 DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for its versatility and durability or the APS-C Pentax KP DSLR. The built-in 5-axis Shake reduction will help on all those dusty and bumpy roads you’re sure to encounter.

What are some of your favorite winter destinations to photograph? Tell us about them and the cameras you use in the Comments section, below.

8 Comments

Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina. Greatest waterfalls anywhere plus they are in the middle of a lovely rain forest. 

True that Thomas. I should have thrown Iguazu into the mix when mentioning Argentina. A great destination in a country with a wide range of natrural wonders, from jungles to glaciers. 

Cold weather? Snow? Wet spray? Dust?  Pentax mid-range (APS-C) and pro-level (APS-C and full frame) are weather sealed bodies rated for colder than normal conditions. You do need to one of the weather resistant lenses to take full advantage of the capabilities. The article only mentions the flag-ship full-frame K-1, but there are several great alternatives.

Thanks Jim.

Whale watching..Maui

Sound awesome Paul.  What's your usual camera set-up?

Aurora Borealis is on my bucket list.

Thanks Ralph!

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