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March, 13

Baikal through the Photolens: How to Take Photos of the Lake in Winter

Tourists and photographers from all over the world go to Baikal. What should one capture on Lake Baikal in winter and, most importantly, in which way?

Nata Baiborodina pic Photographer and traveler The winter Baikal has been extremely popular in recent years. And this is understandable, because you can clearly see the whole might, power and beauty of Baikal in winter. The most amazing thing, of course, is the ice. It is boundless, simply cosmic! The blue abyss under your feet covered with veinlets of cracks: one can look at it endlessly! When I first came to the Baikal ice nine years ago, I could not stop looking at the pictures drawn in its depths for several hours.

So, where should we begin?

For a start, I would like to advise you to use sunlight in the most active way during the so-called “blue hours”, at dawn and at sunset. At these times both the sky and the ice are blazing with all shades of red and yellow. Any piece of ice looks gorgeous. You can look up the precise time of sunrise and sunset at a given locality in various programs, but be sure to come to the point of shooting in advance, about 30-40 minutes earlier: the sky is simply magnificent at the time before sunset or dawn.

The clouds above Baikal are almost always very beautiful, lenticular clouds that are rare in other places can often be observer here. Pay attention to them and try to include them in the pictures you are taking.

 So, when you have come to the shooting site:

 - Immediately take a look around to determine what is next to you, ask the guide:  perhaps the grottoes and caves are near, and they are present almost at all places where the tourists are brought.

- Determine where the sun is rising, shining, or setting and in which way it will illuminate all this beauty.

Shooting a grotto or a cave


- Get into the farthest corner, include many icicles as possible, as well as the cave’s top, in the picture, to make it clear where the icicles grow from, be sure to also include the icy floor and wait for all these details to be beautifully illuminated by the sun;

 - There are a lot of capes on Lake Baikal, some of them will be probably taken as a part of the picture: try to avoid this, because against the background of golden icicles they will look like some dark spots that appeared out of the blue;

 - Do not forget about the focusing depth: in this case it should be large enough, so close the aperture, approximately at f11, f16;

- Compose the picture to make it look beautiful and harmonious, then push the button.

Photographers often try to squeeze themselves into a small grotto, but the results they get are simply amazing, for example - the picture titled “Caramel Dawn” by Elena Vtorushina won the contest of the First TV-channel held in 2017. 

 - Even if you do not include the sun or its beams in the picture, try to make the ice look illuminated, then the cracks and bubbles inside it will look much more interesting. - A photo of the ice can be taken simply from above, without any complicated philosophy, and you will have a great photo for Instagram.

But you can also try something new. For example, if you lie on the ice and take a shot from this level, you can get very interesting pictures: the ice on the lake freezes in an uneven way, sometimes its surface resembles real waves.

- You can make it the opposite way: climb up the hill and take a shot of the ice from above. The photos of “the largest ice rink in the world” are always popular.

 - When you shoot the ice, often you can include the reflection of clouds in the picture: this will make your picture more attractive.

 - When you shoot the ice, often you can include the reflection of clouds in the picture: this will make your picture more attractive.


Baikal Pieces of Ice

There are always a lot of ice pieces, they come in different shapes and sizes, they can be transparent or milk-white, with or without pattern.

 The main rule is to lie down, then you can capture a piece of ice against the background of the sky (sunset, dawn), catch the sunbeams and even the reflection of the surrounding landscape.

It is better to reduce the focusing depth. Pay attention to the background:  it should be still and not distract attention from the ice piece itself. Try to remove all unnecessary things away from your picture.

Splashes and Icicles (“Sokui”) on the Rocks

There are strong winds and storms in the autumn and early winter, when Baikal is freezing. The water furiously splashes to the shore, freezing in the air. The next wave also leaves a part of itself on the rocks. Thus splashes and long icicles of incredible shapes (“sokui”) are formed. As a rule, splashes and sokui are more often seen on the northern side of a cape or an island, since the sun is more active on the southern side, so the splashes and icicles melt. Therefore, the most winning pictures can be made in the afternoon, when the sunlight patches appear on these icy surfaces.

Pictures including only ice and icy capes are extremely beautiful: it seems that the shot was made in the Arctic.


Baikal ice is unstable; you can often see how the cracks are formed with your own eyes. The roar at this time is so loud that an unprepared person may be very scared. However, even if you do not evidence the formation of cracks, you will come across the cracks on your way every now and then. If you find a crack at least 20 cm wide, feel free to put your camera in it:  you’ll get a terrific shot. It is good if something on the background of the picture includes something (or someone) that puts emphasis on the scale of things.

In order to put accent on the dynamics, take a shot of the crack, placing it diagonally: let it stretch off into the distance.

Besides, of course, use the well-known advice on composition: make a straight horizon and do not place it in the middle, you should better place it in the upper or lower third of the picture; the most significant object (especially the sun), should not be put it in the very centre, too, shift it to the right or to the left.

The peculiarity of the weather on Lake Baikal is that you never know what happens in a few hours, and sometimes even minutes, so don’t get sad if the weather is bad: snow can be blown away in a couple of hours, and gray days often have marvelous sunsets! At the same time, do not be lazy to take photos, if everything around is beautiful at the moment: it may snow on the next day.

During cloudy weather the ice has a different shade, and this is great, too; besides, you can also make impressive shots during a snowstorm. Use any weather to make amazing shots.

I wish you good luck and stunning shots!


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