Blog Home Contributor 8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City

Winter weather changes even the most familiar landscapes. Learn from the pros what it takes to capture the eerie beauty of a snow-covered city.

Snow has the ability to turn even the most gritty of cities into impressionistic dreamlands. The great pictorialist photographer Alfred Stieglitz understood this when he photographed a busy 5th Avenue in the winter of 1893. Otto Bettmann knew it in 1958 when he photographed a group of five children running through a snow-covered Central Park. And Saul Leiter realized it in 1960 when he photographed the figure of an unknown man behind a frosty window.

Snow is every city’s best friend and worst enemy, making everything at once utterly beautiful and terribly inconvenient. But while most people are tucked safely at home beside the fireplace, photographers are out and about in the bitter cold searching for magic. We asked eight of them to tell us about their most memorable, snowiest shoots ever.

1. “New York City is a very special place during a snowstorm. The city noise becomes muffled, public places remain deserted, and things get quiet and calm while the skyscrapers turn into shadows.”

Francois Roux

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Central Park

Image by Francois Roux. Gear: Canon 1Ds Mark I.II camera, Canon EF24-70mm F2.8L II. Settings: Exposure 1/10 sec; f8; ISO 100. [5 vertical images stitched together]

What’s the story behind this photo?

It was mid-February. They had announced a snowstorm that would start in the middle of the night and last until the middle of the next day with twenty to thirty inches of snow and high winds. A blizzard was on its way.

In these conditions, most people usually choose to keep warm at home, but for me, it triggered something totally different. I had to be there! At 5:00 AM, the alarm clock went off, and I stepped onto the balcony to make sure the conditions were right and was welcomed by a big snowstorm with ten inches on the ground already.

Barely taking enough time for a coffee, I packed my camera and gear, covered myself heavily, and set out to Central Park and headed for Bow Bridge. I was glad to be familiar with the area because with twenty inches of snow on the ground, almost no light, and such a strong wind, it was almost impossible to know where to tread.

The storm was too strong, and visibility was almost null. The only thing I could see was a part of Bow Bridge but nothing behind it. All the ideas I had in mind were not going to work. Still, I tried a couple of images.

Three hours later, I was getting tired and cold, so I decided to go back home, taking the path leading me to the Gapstow Bridge on the other side of the park. That’s precisely when it happened.

The storm lowered in intensity; the wind started to drop, and for the first time, I could see beyond fifty feet. I decided to wait a little, and slowly, right in front of me, the lake, the bridge, and the first skyscrapers in the distance started to appear. I barely had the time to take a couple of shots and enjoy the view. Just a few minutes later, visibility was down again, and the snow turned into rain. It was over, and it was time for me to go home to a warm coffee.

Pictured: [1] Image by Francois Roux. [2] Image by Francois Roux.

New York City is a very special place during a snowstorm. The city noise becomes muffled, public places remain deserted, and things get quiet and calm while the skyscrapers turn into shadows.

2. “…I ran along the cast iron fence of the highway, which gave amazing and delicate shadows with the headlights of passing cars.”

Elena Belozorova

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Vologda

Image by Elena BelozorovaGear: Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-55mm F2. 8 lens. Settings: Focal length 23mm; exposure 1/30 sec; f2.8; ISO 1250.

Tell us about your most memorable time shooting snow in the city.

I was going to the hairdresser in my native city of Vologda in the North-West of Russia, and I took a camera out of habit. When I was in the city center, there was a sudden, heavy snowfall. It continued for more than an hour. I ran to the shop windows with the Christmas lights on the central square, and I ran along the cast iron fence of the highway, which gave amazing and delicate shadows with the headlights of passing cars.

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Christmas Lights

Image by Elena Belozorova. Gear: Nikon D800, Nikkor 17-55mm F2. 8 lens. Settings: Focal length 28mm; exposure 1/320 sec; f3.2; ISO 3200.

It was very cold, and the batteries ran out. I had to constantly wipe the lens (a protective filter is essential here). Only after the sky became very dark and my fingers had frozen so much they ceased to bend did I finally go to the hairdresser. There, they were surprised to see a customer with a completely red face and hands.

3. “The sky over the bridge and the colors were just perfect: dark clouds with brighter spots where the light was fighting to come through and snowflakes falling from the sky, sprinkling a thin layer of white powder on the bridge and its two towers.”

Sven Hansche

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — London

Image by Sven Hansche. Gear: Canon Mark 5D III camera, Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 lens, Rodenstock polarizer filter. Settings: Focal length 35mm; exposure 1/20 sec; f16; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I live in London, where snow is not that common. On the rare occasion that it does snow, it doesn’t stick to the ground long enough to turn the city white. In the eight years I’ve lived in London, I’ve only once witnessed snow lasting for more than a couple of days.

This shot was taken in the winter of 2016. I think it was January, so it was bitterly cold. I live close to Tower Bridge, so it was not difficult to get there, although the trek was more challenging than usual with all the slippery roads and the cold wind blasting into my face. Once I reached my desired point of view, I immediately took some shots.

Pictured: [1] Image by Sven Hansche. [2] Image by Sven Hansche. [3] Image by Sven Hansche.

The sky over the bridge and the colors were just perfect: dark clouds with brighter spots where the light was fighting to come through and snowflakes falling from the sky, sprinkling a thin layer of white powder on the bridge and its two towers. It was a very pretty sight, one which you don’t see too often in London.

4. “The next morning, I hurried to one of the viewpoints to capture the first rays of sun illuminating the city with the magnificent mountains of Alborz covered in snow in the background.”

Alexander Mazurkevich

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Tehran

Image by Alexander Mazurkevich. Gear: EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4.0L USM lens. Settings: Focal length 118mm; exposure 1/400 sec; f8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

My most memorable shooting experience in winter was in Tehran in December 2015. I was lucky to catch some snowy days in the Iranian capital. Usually, winter in Tehran is mild and not so snowy. My Iranian friends were surprised and happy to see snow falling. People went outside to play with snowballs and take some photos.

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Mountain Backdrop

Image by Alexander Mazurkevich.

The snow was falling all night. The next morning, I hurried to one of the viewpoints to capture the first rays of sun illuminating the city with the magnificent mountains of Alborz covered in snow in the background. The view was remarkable, and it was my reward for freezing my legs and hands.

5. “I had shot the sunset from the famous lookout on Mt. Hakodate in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan. This time, however, I wanted a dawn shot with the city blanketed in snow.”

Sean Pavone

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Hakodate

Image by Sean Pavone. Gear: Nikon d810 camera, Nikkor 24-70mm lens, 10 stop ND filter. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 300 sec; f11; ISO 64.

What’s the story behind this photo?

At the start of the year, I photographed in Japan, one of my favorite countries to visit. Previously, I had shot the sunset from the famous lookout on Mt. Hakodate in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan. This time, however, I wanted a dawn shot with the city blanketed in snow. The only problem was that the road to the summit is closed in winter, and the cable car doesn’t start operating until well after dawn. The only option is a one-hour snow-covered uphill hike in the dark with a backpack full of gear.

Pictured: [1] Image by Sean Pavone. [2] Image by Sean Pavone.

There is a certain eeriness when walking alone at night in the snow-covered woods. The silhouettes of owls passing overhead and their soft distant hooting only added to the mystique. After the trek, I was pretty happy to reach the top and get to work. Even in winter, the observation deck is usually so crowded at sunset that you’re sardined in and have to commit to one spot for shooting. This particular morning, however, I had the whole place virtually to myself.

6. “Of course, the government recommended staying home, but I realized that it was a great opportunity to take photos of the streets, the people, and the atmosphere. I was right.”

Nick Starichenko

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — 5th Avenue

Image by Nick Starichenko. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f3.2; ISO 500.

What’s the story behind this photo?

In January 2016, NYC was covered by the biggest blizzard in its whole entire history. Of course, the government recommended staying home, but I realized that it was a great opportunity to take photos of the streets, the people, and the atmosphere. I was right.

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — New York

Image by Nick Starichenko.

Times Square became a totally different place where people had fun and talked to each other. The kids were so happy, and one man even proposed to his girlfriend, and she said “yes.” But when I walked to the Public Library on 5th Avenue, it was a completely different scene. It reminded me of the movie The Day After Tomorrow—not a single car on the whole of 5th Avenue at 5:00 PM. Just a dozen people were walking around.

7. “This avenue in the center of St. Petersburg was half-empty during rush hour because many people were afraid to drive in this weather. I managed to stay in the middle of the road and take a picture through the windshield of the car.”

Marina Pousheva

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — St. Petersburg

Image by Marina Pousheva. Gear: Canon EOS 6D camera, Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f5.6; ISO 500.

What’s the story behind this photo?

It was the third day of heavy snowfall, and I had to travel by car on business. It was a dangerous situation, and municipal services could not cope. My speed barely exceeded twenty miles per hour. This avenue in the center of St. Petersburg was half empty during rush hour because many people were afraid to drive in this weather. I managed to stay in the middle of the road and take a picture through the windshield of the car.

Pictured: [1] Image by Marina Pousheva. [2] Image by Marina Pousheva.

8. “As night came, a heavy snowfall covered the city in just a few hours. I thought this was a perfect time to get downtown and take a few photos.”

Radu Bercan

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Lipscani Street

Image by Radu Bercan. Gear: Nikon D810 camera, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/3 sec; f5.6; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

In January 2017, we had one of the coldest days in the last few years in Bucharest. As night came, a heavy snowfall covered the city in just a few hours. I thought this was a perfect time to get downtown and take a few photos. As expected, the town was deserted. Everybody else stayed in their homes. This photo is from Bucharest’s Lipscani Street with the CEC Building in the far end. This street is usually full of people, day or night, but because of the storm, it was empty.

8 Photographers on Capturing Unforgettable Snow Days in the City — Bucharest

Image by Radu Bercan.

Top Image by Radu Bercan.