Sunday, November 22, 2015


Photo Credit:  Larry


Winter is hitting many parts of the world now and I get a bit frustrated when I see certain common problems with some of the winter photos I see.  I have been waiting until the first major storm of the season is about to hit our area before covering this topic.  I realize that a percentage of my readership has never even seen snow.  So, I hope that you can take some thing from this week's topic, as I can see this topic apply to say, white sands on the beach, or other areas where there is a lot of white in your subject or even the background.  So, I am going to go through, however, as if we are approaching a winter storm.  First of all, winter can be the most photographically beautiful, yet challenging time to take pictures.  So, don't be afraid to take pictures in the winter.  Here are the guidelines that I think you should use:

  1. Dress appropriately for this type of weather.  What is the temperature when it snows?  Yes, it's freezing outside.  Sometimes, you may miss the best pictures of your life because you had to go in out of the cold.  But, if you could dress so you could stay out long enough to capture the great photos, then, do it.  But, also, don't overdress.  I don't want to think of now sweating out in the cold because you put on too much clothes and now you are miserable.  So, just be smart about how much clothes to put on.  It's much more challenging to know how to dress in winter than summer, for sure. And bring gloves that you can keep your hands from freezing up.  My father used to say: " the only thing you can do best with gloves on is wet your pants".  But, if you don't wear the right kinds of gloves, you won't even be able to move your fingers to take pictures either.  So, wear gloves.
  2. Keep your camera cold.  Really?  Yes, really.  So, if you have a warm camera, and now here is the perfect shot, so, you take out your warm camera into the cold, and what happens?  Condensation on everything.  Your lens, your body, and I mean inside your body that you can't see.  So, get the camera cold before you take pictures to avoid condensation.  But, number 3:
  3. Keep your batteries warm.  Your battery compartment is usually isolated.  But, it is not a bad idea to keep an extra set of batteries in your pocket, so that your camera keeps working.  Electronics don't work when the power is cold.
4.  Keep your photo gear easily accessible.  The equipment you use will need to be readily available.  It is cold enough that fumbling for the right equipment will be hard enough, make sure you can get to it easy enough.  Have your equipment well protected as well as have it accessible.  Make sure if you have your camera equipment in a bag that the bag is weatherproof.  So many times as you take pictures in the snow, you will want to place this bag down on the ground.  If you are taking pictures out in the snow, you can bet that the bag is going to get wet.  So, make sure your bag is ready for this type of weather.

5.  Watch out for Footprints in the snow:
You just got set up to take the most beautiful winter picture, and you look at the frame and you notice that it has all these footprints in the snow, and then you realize, that the footprints are yours.  OOOh, how could you?  Well, that happens, so, be aware that the number one enemy to good pictures in winter sometimes is YOU.  

6-  Snow is bright and can be overpowering for your camera’s internal light meter. Using your camera in AUTO, or even APERTURE/SHUTTER PRIORITYmode will undoubtedly result in dark images since the camera is reading all of the bright light reflected from the snow and compensating accordingly. The best way to overcome this is by shooting in MANUAL and compensating accordingly.  Let me see if I can help you understand this a bit better.  If you take all the colors that the camera sees in a viewfinder, and average them out, they are calibrated with your meter at 18% grey.  Have you ever heard of the 18% grey card?  

An 18% Gray card is something you can usually buy at a good camera shop.  Your light meter in your camera is calibrated to this color.  If you could get a card like this, take a light meter reading of the 18% gray card, and lock the exposure of what that camera says to do, such as the shutter speed and the aperture,  and then re-compose your camera to whatever you want with the lighting of what the gray card says you should use, your colors will be so perfect, it will amaze you.  And this is so critical in snow pictures.  Because now your snow will be WHITE, not GRAY.  Have you ever taken a picture of a winter scene and wondered why they are all kind of gray or dingy looking? It's because the camera still thinks that everything it sees is GRAY, not WHITE.  

So, what do you do if you have a camera that you can't set manually?  Can you take a look at your camera and see if you can set the "exposure compensation" switch?  Or EV value?  See if you have that on your camera.  If you do, you are in luck.  With that you are trying to override the automation by forcing the exposure value (EV) to increase a certain amount.  So, if you are taking pictures in the winter, you would set it at +1.5 to increase the exposure of your photo.  And, if it's a snowy picture, and you also have bright sun with it, I would even go to +2 on the exposure value setting.  It will make all the difference in the world for you to truly get white snow instead of gray snow.

7-  Back home:  Warm up the camera slowly.  I think if I remember a professional photographer say, once he got back home from shooting in the cold weather, he would give it at least 2 hours indoors before he would use his camera again indoors.  Give it time to "acclimate" to room temperature.  This again is only good for your equipment.  

So, hopefully this will help you take some great pictures in the winter.  Or, white beaches, or just understand some more about extreme photography.  


Don't miss the "Photos of the Week"  this coming Thursday ! Those living in the United States, that means, you can just sit down while enjoying Thanksgiving, and look at some great photos.  The photos have already been picked, I am just trying to stay on schedule.  So, see you then.


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