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10 tips for shooting on snow

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BY LISA DENSMORE
Winter is my favorite season of the year. Admittedly, I’m an avid skier, but winter also appeals to my photographic senses. It offers an infinite number of photo opportunities, both editorially and artistically. That said, the weather and the severe contrast between the brilliant white snow and the rest of the winter-scape can challenge photographers. Here are some tips to shoot professional-quality photographs on snow:
1. Compensate your exposure to make snow white. If left on its own, your camera will give snow a gray or severely blue tint. To get white snow, meter off the midtones of the subject, then check the details in the snow such as shadows and texture, depending on how close you are. Generally, you’ll need to dial up your exposure compensation by +1 to +2 depending on the situation.
2. Watch your whites. Be careful not to blow out the whites in your image. If you can’t see texture in the snow in your photo, the image is too hot. Check your exposure. Better to err on slightly dark (underexposed). You can always brighten things up later on your computer.
3. Use a high shutter speed. There’s usually plenty of light if there’s snow. If the snow is actually falling from the sky, a higher shutter speed helps differentiate snowflakes so they look like pleasant falling flakes rather than white blobs or streaks.
4. Check your lens OFTEN! Snow acts like dust on your lens and it’s easier to smudge your lens in the winter, especially if you’re shooting upward without a lens hood. Check constantly for snowflakes and water spots to save computer time cleaning up the image.
5. Keep your camera outside. It’s important to keep your camera equalized with the outside temperature. If you have to go indoors briefly, leave your camera outside. If you must bring it indoors, condensation will form on all of the metal and glass, effectively ending your shoot for at least an hour or two and sometimes longer. If you must bring your camera indoors, put it inside a plastic bag to help lessen condensation directly on the camera.
6. Bring extra batteries. Cold saps batteries quickly. Bring more than you normally need and store them as close to your body as you can.
7. Wear glove liners. With glove liners, the skin on your hands is never exposed to the cold air, wind chill or cold metals on your camera gear or tripod, yet you still have the ability to work the camera controls. Use disposable Grabber hand warmers inside your over-mitts to warm up your fingers when you’re not shooting.
8. Take off your sunglasses or goggles. It takes your eyes 15 to 20 minutes to fully adjust to natural light and color after removing your sunglasses. Though it may be bright, you can only truly see your subject and prepare for it with your naked eyes.
9. Use a dual density filter. In a situation where you have lots of white snow but dark objects such as coniferous trees, or snowy peaks and a rocky valley, a dual density filter can even out the extreme contrast, giving your image better detail in both the snowy and the dark parts of the image.
10. Use flash with discretion. Fill flash can warm up and even blow out a winter image, but it can also cause undo frustration if it’s snowing. When flakes are falling heavily, turn off the flash to avoid a rebound blow-out from the flakes. ♦
—An award-winning writer and photographer, Lisa Densmore is chair of OWAA’s Photography Section and the local chair of OWAA’s 2013 conference. If you have suggestions for future Craft Improvement articles or conference program topics, contact her at densmore1@aol.com. To see her photos, go to www.DensmoreDesigns.com.
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