On cold winter days it is easy to stay inside and not want to explore the cold outdoors, but so long as you are wrapped up well - and appropriately for the weather, then there's plenty to get outside for and photograph.
The first thing to think about is that the angle of the sun on the horizon is smaller during wintertime, this creates numerous really pleasing effects, such as a prolonged period of the magic hour.
The magic hour is the time around sunrise or sunset, when most of the light is reflected and the direct light of the sun passes through a lot more atmosphere, therefore filtering out the harsh neutral or blue cast.
Throughout the entire day the sun remains low in the sky, meaning the sun will never reach a high zenith, always illuminating our subjects at a more pleasing angle. Summer sun can often cause harsh shadows (really hard and extreme) where the contrast and the lighting shifts more towards blue tones.
In winter due to the low angle of the sun, textures that you find in nature and in city scapes will look three-dimensional and become alive and shadows will be long and deep. We can use the shadows to support our main subject, to hint at the presence of a subject by only showing its shadow or to create a sense of scale by comparing shadows. Shadows are copies of our subjects with different qualities that can greatly enhance our composition, often the shadow in winter when it can be so elongated is more interesting than the real object and so you may want to just try photographing the shadow and omit the cause of the shadow, for an interesting twist.
They keep giving us snow warnings here in the UK, and I know certain parts have already had plenty, in the midlands/worcestershire we don't seem to have had too much yet, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for even a bit of the white fluffy stuff. You can't beat getting out and photographing a crisp clean snowscape, maybe there are just some bird prints or fox prints tracking though it, with first light and rays of sun glistening across it, there is nothing as beautiful on a winters day.
Here are some technical tips for you to help you all get better results in the Winter season.
Cameras tend to underexpose white and overexpose black as they gravitate toward neutral grey. You need to overexpose snowscapes by up to 2 stops to allow for this. If you are shooting sunrises, you will not have much time to figure things out as the light changes quickly, so it is good to know this. Always remember to keep an eye on your histogram. Your histogram will give you a true idea of what you are capturing and if you have vastly over or underexposed your shot.
Other things to Remember when you go out in the Winter
Shoot RAW at least during those times so you will not have to figure out the white balance. RAW lets you correct your exposure too if you do not get it right and run out of time with the sunrise.
Remember that once your camera clips your highlights, you cannot recover them. Expose for the brightest spots that you want to be visible.
Batteries do not last as long when it's cold, so carry plenty of spares and keep them warm - maybe in your coat so they get your body warmth and don't get cold in your camera bag.
Also depending on where you are in the world, and just how cold it is where you are, remember that if your tripod does not already have some foam around the legs, you may want to put some insulation foam on it. Avoid touching metal with your bare skin in freezing conditions.
Last tip of the day is that when you return from your winter outdoor photo shoot in the freezing cold temperatures they tell us we are due, let your equipment get warm slowly to avoid condensation inside your lenses. Resist reviewing your photos right away, leave your gear to warm up for a couple of hours first. Wherever you live in the country - snow or no snow, get out there are get the early morning rays of sunlight, it is such a peaceful time of day to shoot at.
Do not miss all the opportunities winter hands you, get out there and have some fun. Take advantage of the warmer light that the low sun offers you, the deeper shadows and the favorable weather patterns and your images can look better than ever. Enjoy.