• Chamois in the Snow
  • Chamois in the Snow

Winter Wildlife Jura Mountains, Switzerland

Winter wildlife photography in the Jura mountains, Switzerland.


Why to go out in freezing conditions?

Snow makes for magnificent photographs when properly exposed. This usually means overexposing of up to 2 stops higher than what the camera thinks is appropriate. The advantage of winter wildlife photography is twofold: On the one hand, it allows for great subject isolation due to the whiteness. On the other hand, animals can be tracked much easier due to visibility and footprints. Therefore, I have recently ventured into the Jura mountains to seize the opportunity.

First snow accumulates
First snow accumulates and requires proper adjusting of your camera settings (Exposure Compensation)

Winter Wildlife in the Jura mountains

Given that good conditions were forecasted with fresh snow, I decided to sleep outdoors. Therefore, I packed the winter sleeping bag, two mattresses as well as the down booties and a tent. Choosing a place that overlooked the nearby meadows, I aimed to use the tent as a hide in the morning.

Hide for winter wildlife in Switzerland
Hide for winter wildlife in Switzerland

Restless Night

During the night, the forecast quickly changed from light breezes to stormy gusts. It was not until I woke up that I realized the sudden shift of the weather. Realizing that my tent was pitched at an exposed place, I would rather pack the tent earlier than later. Taking down a tent by yourself in strong wind is a quite daunting task. Luckily, I was able to get hold of everything before any item flew away.

Struggles

To be honest, the morning was not enjoyable at all. I was cold, hungry, and tired, which poor preconditions for anyone’s motivation. Hence, I venture to the next sheltered hut to get warm, eat something and rest. While having breakfast at the crack of dawn, a little robin paid a visit and posed beautifully.

Winter wildlife allows for great subject isolation in snow
Winter wildlife allows for great subject isolation in snow

After gathering some strength and delighted by the picture, I opted to have a look at a new area.

Winter Wildlife

Due to wind and the temperatures, the snow conditions turned slushy within less than an hour. Therefore, I was not able to make out any animal tracks. Nonetheless, I put on my snow camo and slowly made progress through the forest. Even as slow that my feet became cold yet again. However, my approach proved bore fruits, when a flock of chamois leisurely passed about 50m above me. It was a great sight and I managed to get some nice winter wildlife photographs.

Daunting but Rewarding

Winter wildlife photography is an arduous task, which involves not only a lot of heavy gear, but also poses a physically challenging experience. Low temperatures are harsh on you and on your gear: Batteries die fast, everything takes more time and humidity is a constant struggle. Nonetheless, the images are well worth the effort and I am glad I took the plunge and stayed longer than my mind was willing to at first.

Regarding technical aspects, it is of utmost importance to set your exposure compensation for pictures between +0.7 and +2.0 in order to get correct exposures in snow. For Video your EC should not exceed +0.7 to not overexpose the whites.

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