Cold Weather Photography

August 21, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

It’s the end of August and it’s still very warm here in the southern United States. Autumn and winter are on their way. The winters here aren’t nearly as severe as they were in Upper Michigan and Wisconsin when we lived there, so I don't dread the changing of the seasons as much as I used to when I lived there.

Although the winters in the Great Lakes region can be brutal, it can also be beautiful.  The beauty of a winter sunrise over a Great Lake is a photographer’s dream. But only if you have the patience to stand out in the cold for hours, making photographs, waiting for the light to change for the right shot.  Since I was raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was accustomed to the frigid temperatures. I have that patience.

Late Winter SunriseLate Winter SunriseAn Easter Sunday sunrise on Lake Michigan.

To get these 2 photographs, I had to walk around in the snowbanks quite a bit. It was mid-March on Lake Michigan, so the snow depth had dropped quite a bit. But it was still quite cold at dawn.

Winter Sunrise Through the BranchesWinter Sunrise Through the BranchesWinter sunrise at Wind Point in Racine County, Wisconsin

This next photograph was captured in early March on Lake Michigan down at Wind Point.  The waves were washing little ice cubes up onto the shore, making the oddest sound. 

Icy ShoresIcy ShoresIt was still 20 days from the first day of Spring on Lake Michigan.

Back in late 2013, I was able to put that patience to the test when we visited Melbourne, Florida during the 2013 North American Cold Wave (also known as the polar vortex). As is my custom, I got up very early to photograph the sunrise over the Atlantic. The temperatures during the day weren’t much about the mid-40s (Fahrenheit), but at sunrise, it was closer to 32 degrees (freezing). I didn't think to bring my snowpants with me to Florida, but I did layer up with sweatpants and my jeans. And I wore a sweatshirt, sweater, and a jacket. It paid off (for once) to pack as many outerwear clothes as I did!

Self Portrait 2013 North American Cold WaveSelf Portrait 2013 North American Cold WaveIt was near 32F degrees at sunrise on the beach at dawn in Melbourne, Florida!

The only other time I’ve been that cold during a sunrise shoot was when I was at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior. I was bone cold by the time I left both beaches. 

Whitefish Point Lighthouse - verticalWhitefish Point Lighthouse - verticalIt was a cold winter day at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse

The average temperature for my winter photographs is roughly 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  The wind makes all the difference in the world.  In the following photograph of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior, there wasn't much wind at all.  Temperatures right around 32 degrees.

Marquette Harbor LighthouseMarquette Harbor LighthouseThe Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is located on Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

In this next photograph, it was right around 32 degrees.  I was at the top of bridge that was 1,000 feet above the Roanoke River on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The wind was quite strong and it made it all the colder on the bridge. Sunrise after Snow on the Blue Ridge ParkwaySunrise after Snow on the Blue Ridge ParkwayChristmas morning at dawn on the Blue Ridge Parkway after a snowfall.

And at Tahquamenon Falls in the month of December, it was very cold (temperatures were in the teens). Down at the brink of the falls, the wind was ferocious! When it started to snow, I had to constantly wipe off the lens from the moisture.

Upper Falls & Tahquamenon RiverUpper Falls & Tahquamenon RiverUpper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the month of December

And in this last photograph, the temperature was in mid-30s. I had spent over an hour walking around the Milwaukee County Zoo the day after a snow storm.

Picnic Under Snow BranchesPicnic Under Snow BranchesAfter a snow fall at the Milwaukee County Zoo.


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All photographs on the Deb Beausoleil Photography website are the exclusive property of Deb Beausoleil.  The images may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or altered without the written consent of Deb Beausoleil. 

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