It's Snowing

By Roger (2 March 2015)

So, it snowed, again, this weekend. It wasn't much this time. This year, in northern Virginia, we've had a decent amount of snow – for our area. We can't compete with New England's totals, but we've had a couple storms that put down enough to cause some havoc with traffic and the school schedule. (My wife is a teacher, so I know the impact, first hand.) Many of my fellow citizens are tired of it and wishing for Spring to arrive quickly.

Me? I like the snow. During my travels with Uncle Sam, I lived in Alaska and Bavaria, so I have lots of experience with it. We have, even, used vacation time to go visit snow.

Kenai Fjords, Alaska

Kenai Fjords, Alaska

This is a scan of a slide from 1989, in Kenai Fjords, Alaska, and the boat is 80' long. This was a 50mm, the “normal” lens for a SLR film camera. I didn't have a wide angle lens, so I couldn't get the top of the glacier into the frame. The blue color of glaciers is caused by the compression of the snow creating such a density that the red wavelengths of light are filtered out; only the blues are passed through. That's a lot of snow.

The world looks different when the white stuff starts flying. This weekend, I went out before our snow started to melt. The cold temperatures had kept the latest snowfall light and fluffy (as opposed to wet and slushy), but the sun and wind had were beginning to do their work. Although I was out early, another photographer beat me to the scene. He had crossed the ice to get onto a little island in the creek for a shot that most people would never get of the snowy bridge across the creek.

Another crazy photographer

Another crazy photographer

You can use the snow to for inspiration to get outside and find those photographs that no one else will go out for. You might have to dig around to find some extra clothing to put on. You will need adjust your exposure meter to compensate for the brightness. You have to be careful because it's slippery. Are you going to let these trivial things keep you from making photos? Am I beginning to sound like I'm channeling Matt Foley? Sorry, I watched the re-union show and got carried away.

Old Town Manassas

Old Town Manassas

The point is to take advantage of opportunities to add variety to your photographs. The snow and ice will give a new look to the familiar places you've photographed many times. For those complaining that there is nothing new to photograph, this stuff is made for you. Go get it.

An early freeze

An early freeze

I use the snow to try new things. I own a 105mm lens for portraits; however, it is also a macro lens. I rarely use it for that because my main interest is people. I've always liked the photos that macro photographers produce, but I have problems creating anything that knocks my socks off. The snow and ice give me opportunities to keep plugging away.

Sometimes the new things are photo concepts that, again, I rarely employ. The photo below has lots of “negative space.” Like everything in photography, there are variations in the definition of negative space. We'll do a more complete description in a future blog. Here the negative space is the all the snow around the plant.

Negative space can create moods and change a viewer's approach to your photo. Imagine a photo of this plant in May, with all the grass and weeds around it. The plant would be lost in all the other noise. Here the negative space simplifies the photo and demands the viewer's attention. Again, these are not the types of photos I usually take, so I enjoy the variety.

Negative space

Negative space

I hope I've convinced you to get out and take advantage of any snow you've been suffering through. The white stuff can present you with some variety and fun in your photography. If you think I'm just crazy for going outside in these conditions, that's alright, too.

___________Follow-up from last week______

My last blog wasn't so much a rant about amateurs versus professionals, but the fact that, in so many areas of our photography world (and the “real” world, too), labels are a two-edged sword. We've all seen non-paid photographers with work that is breath-taking and paid photographers with work that is sub-standard (at least, in our opinion). The labels are imperfect because they are so subjective.

I guess, I could have written that I don't think labels are useful or accurate, but, then, I'd have needed to come up with a different blog topic. As you can tell, I'm passionate about this one. :-)

Winter Blahs

Aside from preparing and giving a class with my friends at our local camera club in January, I have not shot a single picture since Christmas Day.  That’s right a whole month without taking an image-and that is just wrong.   Oh, I have excuses, actually valid ones, mostly related to the fact that I am heavily involved in a critical proposal effort at work which eats time including weekends.  But that is not good enough.  The truth of the matter is that I don’t like being out in the winter weather and find the grey just uninspiring.  Now, I have been working on photographic projects, late in the evenings and on Sunday mornings.  I’ve been scanning slides and working on their restoration.  I found these gems of my kids when we visited California for the Tai Kwon Do Nationals where Ben was competing. 

Really cute young kids

Really cute young kids

I Wonder if this is where Ben got the idea for his beard?

I Wonder if this is where Ben got the idea for his beard?

From the last two blogs, you can see that I was working my way through the new features from the On One Software. Adobe itself has kept me busy with lots of new features in the Creative Cloud updates.  Still on my to-do list is exploring the new 3-D features.  At this point, I still don’t know when I might use them, but they look interesting and learning is always fun. In early January, NAPP and Kelby training announced that they were merging all the capabilities into one service-Kelby One. 

Kelby Training.PNG

Both Roger and I have written about this for several years and really can’t be stronger in our recommendation. With the merger the annual cost has increased, but it is still worth it.  This is just the first few of pages of the Photoshop training video tutorials.  

PS Training.PNG

Pretty soon, despite the Groundhog’s warning Spring will be back.  I am ready to get the camera back in front of my eye.  

Snowshoes or Snow Shoots? But where is Winter?

I had planned on writing this blog on winter and snow photography, but we haven’t really had any to speak of.  The temperature really plummeted overnight and there are now rumors of winter weather for the upcoming weekend, but I’ve had no chance to go out and look as cute as these kids from a VA winter in 1967.  In order to prepare for taking pictures in winter, there are a few tips you need to consider.

First, camera batteries do not like the cold weather at all.  You need to take extras, and keep them close to your body, so they can be swapped out. You might lose as much as 50% of the normal life.  Watch your battery life indicator on your camera.  Keep the camera inside your coat as well.

Second, just like your eyeglasses, you have to watch out for moisture build up on the lens and fogging as it goes from warm moist air inside a car or building into freezing air.  Allow time for the lens and the camera to adjust.  If snowflakes get on the lens, don’t wipe them off with a cloth, use the brush.  The pressure from the cloth could cause them to melt and then instantly refreeze. 

Most critically, you might have noticed that snow is kind of white.  Many people’s pictures of snow however are gray.  The camera brains are still not as smart as our optical processors.  The camera will underexpose the image, if it is allowed to think for itself.  There are several ways to counteract this.  The best way is to ensure you know how to use your Exposure compensation controls.  Add +1/3 or +2/3 stops to the image.  Test it and see if it is enough.

The other method is to bracket your images.  If you are trying to capture people against the snow, this provides the ability to expand your dynamic range.  Finally, although it might seem counterintuitive, consider using your flash as a fill light for the people.  It will help them stand out against the bright white background.

Well, if you have snow go out and shoot some images and post them with your comments.  If we get a flurry or two, I will be out there as well freezing my lens cap off.