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Metro Detroit

Published December 4, 2013

Head outside for great photos this winter

» click to enlarge «
Clouds in the sky help reduce glare in this image of Copper Creek Manor, on 24 Mile Road in Chesterfield Township, Dec. 21, 2012.

The temperature is dropping and the leaves are almost all gone, along with the flowers and any vestiges of warm weather.

But don’t despair of not taking another outdoor photograph until spring. Local photographers say winter is a great time to get stunning shots when you know the tricks.

Denise Koehler, of St. Clair Shores, who displays and sells her work as a member of the Lakeside Palette Club, said there is so much to photograph in the cold weather, if you’re willing to head outside.

She’s had deer approach her in local parks and also loves photographing things like pickup pond hockey games.

“I think once you start taking pictures, you see so much, and there’s a ton out there,” she said. “Just where I work, I work right off of the water and I have my camera always with me. There’s plenty of subject matter — kids playing in the snow. There’s just so much.”

Anne Nicolazzo, of Chesterfield Township, owner of Event Photography by Anne Nicolazzo and a volunteer photographer for Make Macomb Your Home and Wigs 4 Kids, agreed.

“Christmas morning, I’m at Metro Beach. You get the freighters … a light dusting of snow,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to find. I never have a plan. It just happens.”

Animals abound at the local metroparks, she said.

“(At) Stony Creek ... a three-legged deer came across the road,” she said. “Obviously, that’s not a plan.”

She said great shots like those often happen when she’s in the car. Activities on the ice — from hockey to ice fishing — are great to capture, too.

“I never realized the water is so busy in the wintertime,” she said. “To see them drill into the ice … it was just a priceless image. The color just pops.”

But she said photographers should be careful in the elements and dress for the weather.

“I’ve fallen into Lake St. Clair trying to get a picture of a sunset,” she said.

Aside from keeping yourself warm as a photographer, Nicolazzo said it’s important to care for your camera, as well.

“The smaller point-and-shoots, they will get too cold,” she said. “Put it in your coat so you can use the warmth.”

Koehler also recommends keeping it dry in a zippered plastic bag. She carries a pocket umbrella with her to protect the camera from any stray moisture in snow or rain.

“I’ll sit out in my backyard, and I have cardinals that come to the feeder,” she said. “I’ll sit out there with the umbrella because I don’t want condensation on my lens. Get it on your lens, and you don’t have that picture.”

Fancy equipment isn’t necessary for a good shot, Nicolazzo said — a good point-and-shoot camera will do the trick, especially when paired with a tripod or a firm surface to eliminate movement and achieve a crisp picture.

Timing, she said, is key.

“If you want sunrises and sunsets, you should get there 30 minutes before the sun rises and stay there after it sets because that’s when you’re going to get the most pop of color,” she said. “So you get up early and you stay out late.”

Avoid looking directly into the sun with your camera without a polarizer filter on the lens.

“If you have a mounted lens, make sure you use the hood so you can reduce the glare on that,” she said. “With a point-and-shoot, you’re just going to be really careful on the angle.

“Practice makes perfect.”

Nicolazzo said her perfect day for taking photographs is one that is a bit overcast because, then, she said, “you don’t have to deal with the harsh sun.”

Landscape photography should be shot horizontally, she said, not vertically, so you don’t lose any part of the image.

Water can be a great advantage for those looking to be creative — use the reflection to get a mirrored image, she said. When it’s frozen, however, be sure to take along a buddy in case of an accident.

When composing an image, Koehler said, photographers should be sure to give the eye three points to dwell on.

“You want your eye to travel almost in a triangle,” she said. “You don’t just want like one place where you look at and then you leave the picture.

“In the winter, you’re going to get a lot of white, and black-and-white is great, but if you can have just one little red cardinal or someone with a red hat or a red coat, it just draws you in.”

Approaching a subject from a different angle is also a good idea, Koehler said.

“If you have a snowman, maybe kneel down and look up at it. Put the camera over your head and take a down view. You might look at him straight, but if you put the camera over your head … that might be an interesting picture versus just straight on,” she said. “Compare the three and print the one that you think is the most interesting.”

Koehler said the most important tip she can offer is to always have a camera on hand.

“My camera is always with me. I always have extra batteries and plenty of memory because you find the best shot and, all of a sudden, your battery dies,” she said. “You’ve got to have that backup because if it’s not charged, you’re just heartsick when you can’t get that shot.”

And for those who have so much fun this winter that they want to pursue photography more? Nicolazzo recommends joining photography groups or looking for pages on Facebook to get more ideas.

“My hobby has turned into almost a full-time, part-time job because I enjoy it,” she said. “This is my passion.

“I only came into landscape (photography) a few years ago. It’s very relaxing, very therapeutic. You never know what you’re going to find.”

For more information about Event Photography by Anne Nicolazzo, visit

For more information about the Lakeside Palette Club, visit

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