IN THE FIELD: Serenity
A few weekends ago, mother nature created a winter wonderland during the wee hours before dawn. And I took the opportunity to step out on the deck to view the sights before breakfast.
The world around me was completely covered in white from a light snowfall. A dense fog had formed due to the warmth of the ground in the lower parts of the valley and it was heading my way. No sounds were to be heard…no traffic, no voices, no wind. Several minutes passed before I decided to get out the camera and try to capture what I was seeing.
I knew this would be an interesting exercise in exposure, due to all the reflected light and changing conditions. The sky behind me and to my right was bright, but the sun was still obscured by clouds. The scene before me and to my left was all white, foggy, and mostly monotone in color.
Because there was so much reflected light, and in order to expose for the snow and keep it reasonably white, I overexposed most of the shots from what the camera meter recommended by 1-1/3 stops. Any adjustment of more than 1-1/3 stops and the scene was overexposed. Any less than 2/3 stops overexposure, and the snow was rendering too grey and the overall scene was a bit too dark. Those darker shots are still usable but it was not the look I was going for.
Every snow scene is different. Some scenes have more contrast (dark objects vs. light objects) and some have less, as in this case. Either way, I usually start by overexposing the shot by 2/3 stops. This is because camera meters are designed to render a scene as middle grey…or about 18% reflectance. And since snow scenes can be so bright, camera meters suggest closing the aperture to reduce the amount of light that would reach the sensor.
Experimentation with various aperture settings is the key to see if the camera is rendering the snow as white, and to see if there is still detail in the snow and the darker areas. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little of both to get a satisfactory result.
I took about a dozen photos of my surroundings, turned off the camera, and went back to enjoying the ever-changing view. Then had breakfast and took the dogs for a walk so they could also enjoy the splendor of a fresh snowfall.
All in all…a nice way to start the day.
Cloudy White Balance