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Capture the Winter action – Better photography at home and away

Expert Reviews Staff
26 Nov 2015
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From sunny days on the ski slopes to frosty mornings at the park. We help you get the best pictures from the winter light

People often use Christmas as an excuse to treat themselves to a new camera. After all, it’s not just the kids who deserve a shiny new toy. There are some great photo opportunities on the day: stockings stuffed with presents, the sparkling Christmas tree and mountains of delicious food. Grab those shots while you can, though. Come Boxing Day, you’ll struggle to create an interesting photo from the piles of washing up, empty bottles and exhausted relatives staring at the TV.

Our feathered friends

Winter provides lots of fantastic photo opportunities if you’re willing to venture out. Frost gives foliage a silvery sheen, and the low sun basks everything in a warm glow, casting long shadows that really flatter subjects. It’s a great time for birdwatchers, with exotic-looking species such as waxwings and jack snipes heading to the UK from colder parts of Europe. As food becomes scarce, birds flock towards garden bird feeders, so you don’t need to travel far.

Shooting these subjects puts a lot of pressure on your camera, so you’ll need something that can step up to the challenge. Photographing birds requires a big optical zoom - don’t bother trying with a basic 3x zoom camera or a smartphone that only offers a digital zoom.

A pocket ultra-zoom camera such as the Canon PowerShot SX710 HS can magnify the scene by up to 30 times, so distant subjects fill the frame. It’s a great choice for nature enthusiasts who don’t want to be weighed down by a bulky camera, and is currently available for around £200, or £180 with a £20 cashback saving until 13 January.

 ^ The short depth of field in this shot lets the subject stand out clearly 

If you have more to spend, check out the Canon PowerShot G3 X (£710, less £40 cashback) with its oversized 1in sensor and 25x optical zoom. Its big sensor delivers cleaner images with less noise, which is particularly useful when shooting in overcast conditions or when you want to freeze motion with a fast shutter speed. Keen birdwatchers tend to go for an SLR to take advantage of their big optical viewfinders and superior ergonomics - particularly useful when shooting with gloves on. Go for the Canon EOS 750D kit and add a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS STM lens to extend its zoom range. Together they cost around £670 after claiming £70 cashback.

Upmarket cameras such as the G3 X and 750D also include the option to shoot in RAW format. This records the raw image data directly off the sensor, ready to process in software such as Adobe Lightroom. It gives far greater control over the colours in a photo, particularly the deep shadows and bright highlights that the winter sun produces. SLRs can also accept filters that screw on to the front of the lens. Circular polarising filters darken blue skies, which avoids them looking bleached out and also helps to bring out the drama in cloud formations.

Smartphone or camera? which is best?

Bringing light out of the dark

Winter has more than its fair share of darkness. From neon cityscapes to moonlit countryside, there’s lots of creative potential to be found. Shooting after dark requires a big sensor and bright lens to capture lots of light, and that’s exactly what the Canon PowerShot G7 X offers. Its 1in sensor and f/1.8 lens capture just as much light as an SLR and kit lens, so this little camera really is a match for SLRs, despite its slim design and £375 price. Buy before 13 January to save an additional £25 with Canon’s cashback offer.

The G7 X can shoot in RAW mode and also includes full manual exposure control and a neutral-density filter for creative long-exposure effects. One of our favourite long-exposure techniques is light painting, where a dark environment is lit up by moving torches through the scene while the shutter is open. The streaks of light interact with the scene to create something that’s somewhere between photography, painting and sculpture.

^ Take advantage of it getting darker, earlier and try some light painting

If you’re lucky enough to have a winter sports holiday this winter, the Canon PowerShot G7 X is a superb camera to take with you. It’s small and light enough to slip into a trouser pocket but delivers the kind of photo and video quality that’s normally only available from much bulkier, pricier cameras. That means you can select shutter priority and push the shutter speed up to 1/1,000s to freeze fast-paced action without having to put up with grainy image quality.

Snow is seriously bright, and cameras often get confused and lower the exposure, giving everything a murky grey quality. The G7 X includes a scene preset especially to handle these conditions, keeping everything bright and crisp. Alternatively, just reach for the exposure compensation dial on the camera’s top plate and boost the exposure to +1. It’s little touches like this that make the G7 X such a rewarding camera to use, and a gift that anyone will be happy to receive.

 

 

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