Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tips for Shooting Snowy Scenes

Calgary is getting a hefty helping of snow and it has motivated me to do two things, one of which I like and the other not so much. The latter has to do with plowing the snow off the sidewalk, which stinks as the snow is terribly wet and heavy (at least it's a good quick workout though). But it has also motivated me to write up a quick blog post (about time, eh?) regarding taking wintery photos. I'll keep this short and sweet as I'm really busy with my business venture, but I hope you'll find this information useful.

Overexpose - To newbies this tip might sound crazy. If you're shooting a scene that is already bright white for the most part, why on Earth would you want to overexpose the image? Wouldn't that blow out the highlights? Well in most cases no and instead you'll likely get the proper exposure.

To understand this, we must understand how the camera meters. I happen to have a video on this topic, click here to view it. In a nutshell though, the camera "sees" the world in a pleasant shade of gray, not 50 shades (sorry, couldn't help that :P ), usually around 18%. Thus, if we want to take a photo of a snowy scene with mostly bright white snow and ice, along with a cloudy and also fairly white sky, the outcome of the image will be dull. Here's an example below, a shot of my dog Daisy with snow all around her:

Indeed this image is underexposed. The snow is flat and Daisy is too dark. So we need to tell the camera to overexpose the shot to compensate for this artifact. This is where the EV button (one with the little plus/minus sign) comes into play on your camera. The shot below has been compensated to +0.7 EV and this has improved the shot; the snow is much brighter and Daisy looks much more vivid.

Batteries and Shrinkage - Cold weather is another factor to consider when shooting. Icy temperatures can make shooting physically uncomfortable for a photography such as numbing fingers or having to manipulate tiny buttons with fat gloves on. In addition, the cold usually takes its toll on battery life; the lower the temp, the sooner the battery dies. So to maximize battery life, try to keep your camera warm by tucking into your jacket if possible when not shooting (and turn the cam off) and remember to carry a spare or two for some additional shooting time.

As for shrinkage... no, not that kind... very cold temperatures can potentially damage the fine controls within some cameras, especially if the machine is allowed to cool to ambient temperatures. For example, tight tolerances between various components, like tiny gears for controlling autofocus or power zoom, could struggle (or even jam if the equipment isn't as rugged). For some cameras this might only be a temporary annoyance, but for others this might mean more severe or even permanent damage. Most digicams, even some "pro" models, generally have operating temperatures rated from 0 to +40 degrees Celcius (32 to 104 Fahrenheit), so be mindful of this range.

Condensation - For those who wear glasses, you're likely all to familiar with what happens when you come into a warm location from a very cold one; your glasses fog up. This is condensation and the same process can and often does occur with your equipment. Some quick tips to avoid this effect include keeping the lens on the camera which you used outside and not removing it until the body and lens have reached ambient indoor temperature, as well as keeping the lens cap on. If by chance you have forgotten to replace the lens cap before entering the warm location and you notice moisture forming on the surface of the lens, it's generally best to keep the lens exposed so that the condensation can evaporate freely (versus being trapped between the cap and lens element).

In the past I actually wrote a similar blog post about shooting in the cold as I had a request for such a topic; you can read it by clicking here.

Well back I must go to work... actually some dinner first. I will keep y'all informed of my progress with the wooden sunglasses. I think I'm about a month away! The ones I do have done already look fantastic, far, far better than the very first one I created for myself. Anyway, take care and happy shooting! L8r!