So this time when it snows, instead of bombarding your facebook friends with your personal objections to the inevitable weather systems of winter, why not venture out into the world, visit your favorite locations, and enjoy a new perspective on the snow blanketed world around you? Here are a couple of snow-filled scenes I've taken this winter for inspiration...
Photographing snowy landscapes offers a number of new challenges and opportunities. Just like every snowflake is different, every snowfall is different. Don't miss a great shot because you think it'll look exactly the same the next time it snows -- it won't! Get out as soon as it stops snowing to take advantage of a clean layer of snow with no footprints, or go out while it's still coming down to catch those little flurries in the air.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when photographing in the snow:
- Keep careful track of your white balance as lighting conditions change. Auto White Balance generally results in a bluer cast in the snow -- which could give an interesting cold mood, but won't give you nice crisp, white snow. Try setting a Custom White Balance, using a clean white patch of snow to take a reading.
- Play around with shutter speed when the snow is actively falling -- slow speed = moving snowflakes, fast speed = frozen snowflakes (no pun intended...)
- Look for interesting shadows cast by objects on snow. We rarely have so uniform a surface to work with in nature, so pay close attention to the way light and shadow fall on the fresh snow. Sometimes the snow itself casts a shadow which could make for a very interesting picture in it's simplicity.
- Check your exposure. Often cameras have difficulty determining proper exposure in scenes with so much white, and the snow ends up looking gray. Try over-exposing by 1.5-2 stops.
- Keep your camera warm!!! When I shoot in cold temperatures I generally wear a 2-layered skiing coat and keep my camera in between coat layers. It can be somewhat of a pain taking it in and out of the outer layer, but I know that my camera is protected when I'm not actively shooting. Also, keep in mind that batteries drain quicker in cold weather, so keep a couple extra in a pocket close to your body heat.
- Invest in good gloves. Frozen fingers lead to camera-setting fumbles. You want to find the thinnest possible gloves that don't constrict movement, but still manage to keep you warm. Many photographers like the convertible kind of gloves for their flexibility.
- Protect yourself from glare. Snow is a very reflective surface that create drastic glare issues. On bright days, I wear brown sunglasses in between shots so I don't get snow-blind. In photography your eyes are your most valuable tools, so keep them protected from the elements.
- Shoot in RAW and/or bracket your exposures just in case. We've all come home from a photoshoot feeling really good, only to get disappointed once the pictures are loaded on the computer or developed. Because snow can create such extreme/harsh photographic conditions, shooting in RAW or bracketing exposures give you more breathing room for adjustment and can give you an added sense of security.
- Lastly, make sure you are prepared for the elements. Make sure your camera strap is secure (a snowbank may be pretty but it's no place for a camera), bring along a rain cover or a plastic bag just in case, and remember to keep your camera warm and dry whenever possible. After a winter shoot, let your camera gradually warm up again before bringing it indoors to serious damage.
For more information, here are Canon's tips for photographing snow: http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/controller?act=GetArticleAct&articleID=2666
Visit the Travel section of JordanaWright.com to see more winter landscapes. Enjoy the snow, and thanks for stopping by!