Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Evergreens in a Snowstorm

Evergreens in a Snowstorm

I have been shooting in snowstorms lately. Why? Call me crazy, but I love the magic of falling snow. Especially the first snow, when you can still see the shape of branches and leaves, and when New England mud hasn't appeared yet.

I know, there are those of you out there who would rather roast chestnuts over an open fire. But I love being outdoors and winter is my favorite season, so I just can't wait to get out in the snow.

It's a challenge. You need to stay dry and warm, because a miserable photographer makes miserable images. So I wear waterproof boots, pants and jacket and a hat with a brim to keep comfy.

How about the effects of weather on the camera? KEEP IT DRY! I carry mine in a plastic bag and try not to work in rain. Rain is wet, and wet is bad for electronics. But as long as the temp is below 32*, the snowflakes don't melt and get my camera wet. So if the temp is low, I just brush the flakes away occasionally.

But shooting snowstorms is still tricky. Heavy clouds reduce the available light. When it's dark, you need to take a long exposure, or reduce depth of field, or raise the ISO to get enough light on your sensor.  Or all three.

In a long exposure, falling snow just looks like weird white streaks. You need a quick exposure, about 1/250 second. But at that speed, you have no depth of field. So I found a subject that didn't require much depth. Then I raised my ISO to 1600 (because sensor noise doesn't show in a snowstorm).

All set, right?  Not quite. Depth of field affects snowflakes as well as trees. Even though the trees look ok, the foreground snowflakes are big white blurry blobs!

Here's an original, with blurry blobs of snow

Then I took 3-5 shots of each composition, all exposed exactly the same. When I got home, I took the best 2 and loaded them into Photoshop as layers. Then it was easy to erase the blobs from the top layer and reveal the detail from the layer below, because the blobs were in different places in the layers.

The picture at the top is not perfect, but at least I have a way to practice and improve this technique and share this beautiful season. I hope you enjoy the snow - it seems like we're getting a lot of it!

You can see more of my work at my Fine Arts America galleries.