This photo was taken the same morning as the photo in the previous post. I was facing in an easterly direction when I took this shot, as compared to facing in a more westerly direction when I took the former photo. The two shots were taken within a minute of each other. Shortly after I took this shot, the subtle colors of the sunrise and distant forest were obscured by the fog moving up the valley.
The exposure settings for both photos were actually identical. I wanted to show the difference in color tones from two different view points and to illustrate the difference in the light, even though the scenes were very close to each other.
I used a cloudy White Balance setting for both photos primarily because I rarely use any other setting. I feel the color tones in photos have a warmer feel when using the cloudy setting. Sometimes I will need to make a custom white balance setting for really difficult, mixed, or artificial lighting situations, or if the camera is just not duplicating the color I am seeing.
I also like to experiment, if time permits, by taking several shots of the same scene using different WB settings. Not only just to see the difference, but also to determine what works best for me. There is no right or wrong, just a personal preference.
Cloudy White Balance
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
We awoke this morning to the first snowfall of the season. As I am writing this, it is still snowing with predicted accumulations of one to three inches. We have those amounts already, even though the weather forecasters mentioned the snow is supposed to continue through the day. Later today the snow is expected to turn to light rain and the temperatures should fall closer to freezing. Winter has arrived.
I took these two shots looking out from our deck about 9:00 am this morning. Both photos were taken within seconds of each other, and from the same vantage point.
I wanted to illustrate the difference between a vertical composition and a horizontal composition of the same subject.
Some compositions work better in one format versus the other. That is why I almost always take a vertical shot after taking a horizontal. Neither version is correct or incorrect, but more of a personal preference. Due to the constraints within WordPress, click on the photos to see the full effect.
I also over exposed each photograph by one stop. Had I followed what the exposure meter recommended, the snow would appear grey rather than white. I probably could have over-exposed the shots by an additional stop to brighten the snow even more, but then I would have lost detail in the tree trunks. Photography can be full of compromises.
Photo specs are, ISO 200, White Balance-cloudy, f3.5, @ 1/200th, manual mode.
Capturing the pure white of snow or ice can be tricky depending on the available light, your camera settings, and how much snow or ice is in your composition.
Cameras don’t necessarily know what your intentions are. They record the image as an average based on the meter reading.
Camera meters are generally set to take a reading of the scene and convert it to an average of about 18% gray, or what is known as a medium tone. Snow and ice is not typically 18% gray, so the camera meter sees all this light and instructs the camera, or suggests to the user, to close down the aperture. Whoa…it’s bright…way to much light coming in here. If the photo is taken at this metered setting, typically the shot is under-exposed and the snow or ice turns blueish, especially if you have a lot of snow or ice in your composition.
But, it can be easier to capture what you are seeing through the viewfinder, and avoid underexposing your photos of snow and ice, with a few simple solutions.
If you are shooting in manual mode, and have the aperture set for the depth of field you want, you can adjust the shutter speed to overexpose from what the meter recommends by a stop or two. It may take some experimentation to get the results you want without overexposing so much that the snow or ice become blown out and there is no texture left.
You may also want to adjust your white balance to sunny, cloudy or even a custom setting, depending on the type of light available that day.
Another method, is to use exposure compensation which can be used in auto or manual mode. You can dial in as much or as little overexposure as you want, just be sure to set it back to zero when you are finished, otherwise all your subsequent photos will be overexposed.
If you want to evoke a cold feeling to the scene by letting the camera show the snow or ice with a blueish cast, and not add extra exposure, that’s ok too…you are the photographer, after all….and you get to choose.
At this time of year in the part of the world where I live, protecting camera equipment from the cold winter weather is a priority. If the snow is blowing, I use a Rainsleeve to keep the snow off the camera and lens. I also carry a spare battery in my pants pocket to keep it warm, so when the battery in the camera begins to lose energy from exposure to the cold, I have a backup.
These are not hard things to do, allowing me the luxury to shoot throughout the year. And to capture not only larger scenics, but smaller seasonal vignettes.
This handrail was covered in snow which had begun to melt from the afternoon sun. When the temperature fell at night, the snow and water refroze into this formation that, to me, resembled waves on a beach.
When I took this photograph it was 21 degrees, sunny and windy. I had plenty of battery power…I just could have used warmer gloves.
I don’t know how many times I have photographed the woodlands surrounding my home throughout all the seasons. Whether it is the morning light, a tree limb that has fallen in a recent storm, or a fresh snowfall at this time of year, I still seem to discover new vistas.
This past weekend we had a wet and heavy snowfall starting Friday afternoon with temps in the low 30s. As the evening progressed, it got colder and the snow dried out to a fluffy powder. It continued to snow during the day on Saturday and into that evening, with more snow squalls blowing through, bringing 30-plus mile per hour winds. And it has been blowing ever since with wind chills in the single digits to low teens.
I took this photo just after sunrise Saturday morning, although the sun was not visible due to heavy cloud cover. I wanted to capture the experience of being in a winter wonderland. The contrast of the fresh white snow against the dark tree trunks, and the few leaves still clinging to the branches despite the winds, all contribute to this winter scenic.
I guess it just goes to show, no matter how many times you revisit a location, if you take a moment to truly see, you may just find what you are looking for.
I had driven past this old shed for many years and often wondered what it may have been used for. It sat out in the middle of a farmers field with nothing else around it, braving the elements of all the seasons. Each year it would lean over a little bit more and the paint would become more weathered. I never saw any human activity there or even any machinery stored inside. It was just there.
Late one winter afternoon, I was driving by the old farm and shed, the wind was blowing fiercely. Snow was drifting and covering the roads that were clean and dry a few hours before. It was the pre-curser to a storm that followed later that night. I had my camera with me and wanted to capture the stormy weather and the shed standing up to the impending storm.
Sadly, last spring the old shed was torn down and a community of new homes took it’s place.
I am glad I was able to take this photograph before this old shed vanished. It was the inspiration for me wanting to capture and preserve the images of older buildings and structures in the area I live. They may not be there tomorrow.
I rarely have concerns about getting lost traveling around the United States, since I figure we all speak the same language and I can always ask for directions. Although, there have been times when I did wonder if I was in a foreign country, or even in the Twilight Zone. Because I would hear the words, but they wouldn’t make any sense. It was as if they were spoken in a completely different language that only a local resident could understand.
Here are a few of my all time classic responses when asking for directions:
Yeah, just follow the signs…[why would I be asking you for directions if I could find the signs?]
Just go down the road a piece…[how big a piece?]
It’s real easy to find…[then why am I lost?]
What do you need directions for? [Because I have been driving around the same city block for what seems like an hour.]
Just on the other side of town…[is that the right side of town or the left?]
Follow this road to the second stoplight, turn right, no go straight, no maybe its a left [bye-bye.]
Well…ya can’t get there from here…[then how did I get here?]
You’re looking for what? You want directions to where? [bye bye]
Just down the road a ways, ya can’t miss it…[well, apparently I did, which is why I am asking.]
Which way are you heading? [If I knew that, I wouldn’t be lost.]
Do you want the long-cut or the shortcut? [Dude, I just want to get there...]
Go to the last traffic light in town…[ah man, you gotta be kidding...you do know I’m from out of town, right?]
Problem: Strangers and directions can be like oil and water…not always a good mix…
Solution: Bring a map, compass, or GPS…
I have always been fascinated with the seemingly random patterns created by trees in the woods, especially in the winter when the leaves are gone and snow is on the forest floor. And I have found if you study them long enough, not-so-random patterns can start to develop.
During a late October snowstorm, which dumped a foot of heavy wet snow, we had a lot of broken branches and downed trees here in the heart of the hardwood forest where I live. The landscape has been drastically altered and I have been able to photograph many of the changes.
However, I have been waiting for the perfect moment to capture this one tree with two broken branches. It is at the edge of our property and I see it every time I walk out onto our deck. We had a small amount of snowfall a few days ago, and the other morning the temperatures rose, creating a misty foggy atmosphere. Finally…the moment I had been looking for.
I set up the tripod and took a series of shots. Both horizontal and vertical formats worked well and I also played around with the white balance. Some settings rendered the scene as it was, and other settings gave a colder tone.
I liked the contrast of the dark wet trees against the snow. And the muted spot of color from leaves on the oak trees, which will stay until Spring. The foggy mist added just the right mood. And the crossing of the broken branches provided a focal point against the jumble of smaller criss-crossing branches.
I finally got the shot of those trees I wanted. Sometimes it does pay to be patient…
During the holiday season I took some time out to look through my film archives. I have thousands of slides in protective pages and in those little yellow boxes that came back from the processing lab. I didn’t review all of the slides, or I would still be at it come this time next year.
Back in the day, before digital cameras became commonplace, we used film cameras. And there were many types of film available, ranging from slow to medium speed (ISO 25-400) slide films to slow to fast speed (ISO 50-800) print films. Film had a quirky trait when exposed for long periods of time. When exposures started to reach the 30 second mark or less, depending on the film and light available, the film’s ability to render true colors would shift throughout the color spectrum. This was known as reciprocity failure and could be used to the photographer’s advantage if abstract images were the main goal. Or the photographer wanted to experiment.
The film I used for the photo in this post was Kodachrome 64. The aperture I used was probably f16 or f22 and the shutter speed was most likely around 25 seconds. Available light was minimal since the sun had already set and it was almost dark.
This photo is a small portion of an ice patch near the edge of a creek. I took several shots at various locations along the water’s edge. The color shift varied from frame to frame, depending on how long the exposures were. The rainbow lens flare in the upper corners of the frame may have been caused the light reflecting off the water. Because of the long exposure, the color of the ice shifted from white to blue, with spots of lavender, giving it a surreal look.
For me, the hardest thing about using film was waiting to see the results from the photo lab. Good or bad.