Winter in the Uinta Mountains is a magical time of year. The weather conditions can be extreme and dangerous, the people few and far between, and the snow deep and beautiful. Photographing the wintertime in the Uinta Mountains can be challenging and rewarding. I love exploring the Uinta Mountains in the winter looking for amazing winter scenes, frozen forests and snow-covered mountain peaks.
Winter Photography in the Uinta Mountains, Utah
Winter lingers in the high country, especially in the Uinta Mountains. It is common to have the first snowfall in early September and continue into April and even May. I've even seen it snow in the summer months. In August 2021, a snowstorm stranded hikers in the High Uintas Wilderness Area and caused many people to flee the mountain passes for lower terrain. The lesson learned from this storm is to watch the weather and take the proper gear. The Uinta Mountains can be deadly at anytime of year, so be careful and take warm cloths even in the summer. Here is another blog post I did on how to stay warm in the wintertime.
Big Bend on Bear River
My wife and I love to stay at the Bear River Lodge near the Wyoming side of the Mirror Lake Highway. The lodge is right by the gate where they close the road for the winter which, gives easy access to the amazing winter wonderland the Uinta Mountains have to offer. We usually rent a UTV side-by-side with cat tracks from Trax Power Sports at the lodge to cruise the highway in warmth and comfort. It takes us about three hours to reach Mirror Lake because we take our time, but it is so much fun watching for wildlife and beautiful views along the way. Here is the first of a four part video from our 2021 weekend winter adventure.
Photographing in the winter can be a challenge so make sure to take care of your camera and lenses. Hand warmers are an amazing inexpensive way to keep your hands and gear warm. I use the Hot Hands brand and put one in my camera bag to prevent the batteries from dying in the cold. I also put one in each of my mittens in extreme cold so I can quickly warm my hands while photographing. I keep a number of micro fiber cleaning cloths handy to keep water spots off my lenses.
I love watching for the wonderful light you can only get in the winter when low light angles, even in the middle of the day, can cast long shadows. The snow reflecting the light filling in shadows and causing sparkles in the landscape makes photographing in winter one of my favorite times. I also love when a fresh snowfall covers the branches and pine boughs giving a nice contrast between the lights and darks of the forest. The Uinta Mountains are a perfect place to find these landscape scenes.
I am also intrigued by natural still lifes such as intimate scenes of trees and rocks. Winter is a perfect time of year to capture these kinds of photographs because the snow often covers the clutter and distractions of unwanted vegetation and rocks. The wind sometimes sculpts the snow around objects giving visually pleasing foregrounds. Watch for these compositions as you are enjoying a chilly stroll in the forest, it is amazing what you can find when you take the time to observe your surroundings.
Wintertime is also perfect for black and white photography. The lack of vibrant colors and contrast extremes can make for some stunning classic art images. Usually most landscapes don't look black and white to me but in the winter I am constantly seeing compositions in monochrome. I found the scene above as we were snowshoeing around Christmas Meadows. I knew I had to photograph it! I waited for the sun to get a little lower in the sky so the shadows would be more prominent. Then I stood in the bed of the UTV so I had a higher perspective angle to view the scene. I love how this high key, abstract photograph turned out, showing the little stream as it snakes its way through the meadow.
Exploring and photographing in the Uinta Mountains in winter is a great time of year to be out in the high country. The solitude is immense, the cold air refreshing and the silence is golden. Winter is the perfect time of year for being able to clear your mind and reconnect with nature. So dress accordingly, be prepared for the cold and get out and create your own winter wonderland adventures!