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