Midwestern Wanderlog

2016-01-08 – Play in the snow (or with it)!


A second morning in a row with soft, thick, wet snow on the trees and roads!  The sights kept trying to reach out and mesmerize; the coating of thick, sticky snow outlining every branch, every twig, every blade of old prairie grass, turned the path into a winter cathedral.  If you were to set aside the occasional traffic noise from highway 61, you can even hear that reverent hush of nature’s sigh as the snow blanket muffles human footfalls.  Sky is getting lighter, and Red Wing is reflecting kind of pink on the underside of the fog and low-lying clouds.

_MG_5046Had to push on, though – driving in at 40 miles per hour moved the ETA at the eastern overlook uncomfortably close to sunrise.

There’s a kind of understated beauty to snow that takes practice to capture properly.  All too often, the camera erroneously makes adjustments to the image; the internal software wants to balance the number of white pixels with the black to achieve an all-over grey, so in images with an excess of white (like snow), it tones down the white pixels, which results in a bluish tinge to the photograph.

So what to do, to photograph snow properly especially when the sky is overcast?  Still working on it, myself!  But there are a few basic guidelines.

  • Switch the camera to manual and deliberately overexpose the image, by at least half a stop, if not a full stop.  (Chances are good you’ll need to be working with a tripod at this point, particularly if you’re out at dusk or dawn.)  Don’t know how to work your camera on manual yet?
    • Introduce yourself to your owner’s manual.
    • Haven’t got a manual?  Look up your specific camera on Google, and there should be some basic instructions for navigating the manual settings.
    • If both of those suggestions are no good, just start poking around in the menu and with the dials and buttons on the camera – you’ll figure it out!
  • Pull up your histogram of the image.  Not sure about point-and-shoots, but every DSLR I know of has one.  Rely on that graph more than you do the LCD display; the display can be misleading – the histogram isn’t.
  • Compare the shots you take (and the histogram) to the image on a full-size screen; associate the appearances of all three in your mind so you can make adjustments on the fly out in the field.
  • Shoot in RAW and find an image editor.  Doesn’t have to be fancy, just something that will let you play with white balance, saturation, and luminance
  • And most importantly:  Play. With. Your. Camera.

Might take a while, but the end result is sooooo worth the practice!


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