While all the wintry weather this year may have you warming to the idea of becoming a Florida snow bird, it does give us photographers a chance to capture unique images close to home. I encourage you to dress in several layers, stuff chemical hand warmers in your coat pockets, place an extra camera battery in your pants pocket, and venture out in search of the extraordinary. Oh, and remember to pull a traction device on to your boots to prevent slipping and falling on the ice.

Thanks to the bitter cold temperatures here in Baltimore, ice has formed several times over large portions of the Inner Harbor creating remarkable photo ops throughout the day. One hour before sunrise the Domino Sugar refinery glows against the predawn sky; and its neon sign casts a glittering ruby red reflection across the icy surface of the harbor. The long exposure creates shapes in the vapor rising from the smokestacks, so shoot several frames and afterward select the image whose plume of smoke has the most intriguing shape.

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Permit me to digress here a moment and offer a pro tip or two. For the most captivating images you must be on site one hour before sunrise. About 50 minutes after I captured the predawn image above, this was the view of the Domino Sugar refinery. I think you can agree the light is now dull (plus, the glimmering reflection is gone). You may be tempted in this situation to shoot wider and include the sunrise thinking it will enhance the overall quality of light. I recommend you resist that temptation and thought. Shooting this wide scene in this light actually creates two drab images inside one frame … a large dark building set against a cloudy, lackluster morning sky and a ho-hum generic sunrise full of distracting foreground elements. The better choice in this situation is to proceed west along the waterfront promenade to capture first light on the city skyline. And then head off in search of a warm breakfast indoors.

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Dull light = dull photo

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Plan to head back out on a sunny (but still shivering co-co-cold) afternoon to capture wintry images such as these two from around Baltimore’s frozen Inner Harbor.

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When it snows, grab your camera instead of the snow shovel and head outdoors. You will be amazed how snow and ice can change your favorite local destinations into a winter wonderland. Include people in your wintry streetscapes, especially folks wearing a splash of bright color. Be ready to capture serendipity such as this young woman who kept skating along the snowy waterfront promenade.

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Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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The trick to photographing during a snowstorm is to keep your lens dry. Use a lens hood and avoid shooting into the falling snow. As you see below, it takes only a few snowflakes melting on the lens to ruin a photo.

Shoot in inclement weather, but keep your lens clear of rain drops.

Keep your lens clear of rain and snow drops

The weather forecast calls for snow/sleet three times over the next week in the Baltimore-Washington DC metropolitan area, so we here have several more opportunities to find, capture, and document the wintry transformation of our local neighborhoods.

A final thought … while you wait for your camera pack to acclimate itself to the inside temperature of your home, grab that snow shovel and clear your sidewalk. This chore allows you not only to avoid becoming the neighborhood pariah but forestall as well any liability claim.