It was snowing yesterday, and I wanted to capture the woods at my backyard. Happens to me everytime: when you just stand and look at the scenery -- the white cover, the fluffy flakes coming down, the tree branches laden with the white stuff -- it's a beautiful picture; but when I look at the results... Very disappointing. Flat and boring to say the least.
How do you take exciting snow pictures?
Although the pictures below were taken before there was hardly any snow on the ground, they still show the disappointing lackluster. No flakes in the air, no flakes as streaks, in short: it's the kind of picture that makes you want to pack and go to Florida... Of course the gray sky work against me here, but I've seen nice results of snow images under such conditions.
These images were taken on a tripod, at f22, ISO 100, and about 0.8 sec. exposure. I hand-held a flash unit and fired it mid-exposure.
Your suggestions will be highly appreciated!
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#1. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
tcerul Charter MemberMon 01-Dec-08 07:51 PM
Tough! I'm no expert, but I think a longer focal length, to compress the number of snowflakes you were shooting through. Also, a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of the flakes and make them visible. I don't think the flash added anything, but I guess you were thinking to freeze the flakes. Next time isolate on an interesting subject, use a long lens and faster shutter. Then you can send me a picture and say it didn't work either, OR, look at this great image! I'm really guessing here, we so seldom get snow I don't have many opportunities to practice.
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#2. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
mnbuilder49 Nikonian since 18th Apr 2006Mon 01-Dec-08 08:00 PM
If you use your camera's light meter to take pictures of snow, it will come out underexposed and the snow will look somewhat gray.
Your light meter is trying to average out the scene rather than get the right exposure. Take a meter reading off the palm of your hand and then add one stop to that reading and see if you like that better.
#12. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 2
WillyPete Registered since 09th Feb 2006Fri 05-Dec-08 04:46 PM
I soon learnt to overexpose for snow, but also remember your white balance.
It's best to preset it.
You can zoom in on a pure snow patch, or use a white handkerchief on your backpack, oriented the same way as your subject so that you match their colour temperature.
The flash is only really needed for darker or close subjects, such as a snowboarder flying out of the side of a half pipe.
#3. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
Exposure is an important issue when shooting snow for reasons already mentioned, but as with any picture, the composition and choice of subject is just as important, if not more.
The images you have posted here don't seem to have a clear subject in them; it looks like you just pointed the camera out of the window and took some random shots.
Had you walked outside and went into the forest, you could for instance shoot all those verticals with a wide angle with maybe one tree trunk large in the foreground, or you could use a tele to compress the perspective of the tree trunks, making them look positioned very close to each other. The white of the snow and the dark tones of the trees will result in very graphic images that can work really well.
Closeups of simple subjects covered with snow can also work well.
Hope that helps.
Marsel van Oosten | Squiver Photo Tours
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#4. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 3
Tue 02-Dec-08 03:03 PM
Thank you all for your input!
The point you make, Larry, is well taken. I suffered the 18% gray issue before (explained also here). I usually try to address it at the time I take the picture, or with raw shooting -- I do it post processing.
As you guessed, Tom, freezing the flakes is exactly what I tried to do with the flash. But I think that a faster shutter and/or longer focal lens would have been better.
Having said all that, I think that Marsel, you spelled out the main problem I am struggling with: beyond the exposure issues, I simply suck at compositions...
I understand your observation that the pictures "don't seem to have a clear subject in them". (Although I did not "point the camera out of the window" -- I was freezing on the deck... ) It's frustrating and may be hard to explain, but I feel like that when I go out, I can see a beautiful snow scene, and it may not have any specific subject, but no matter what I do -- I just can't capture it! It's a struggle between the desire to "catch it all" and the need to have some focal point in the picture to make it good.
Now that I think about it -- maybe what I need is to explore the panoramic approach -- it may not have a subject per-se in it -- but the mere vastness and width of it can do the trick.
Your ideas for picture compositions are interesting. I will try to take these pictures and see what I can get.
BTW: Marsel -- I have to say that your Squiver galeries are an inspiration! Really beautiful images.
#5. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 4
ahhbeebee Registered since 01st Dec 2006Tue 02-Dec-08 09:05 PM
I by no means consider my compositions particularly exciting either, but these are a few things I try to do when trying to improve my photography, and it sounds like you are doing it a little whether you are aware or not.
My process is sort of like how I enjoy visual arts.
1) First, just take it all in, enjoy the scene in front of you.
2) Second, identify what elements are evoking emotion, what that emotion is and why the evocation.
3) Next, I try to look at details, little elements that we often overlook, but the 'masters' place in frame intentionally.
4) Lastly, I go back to step 1, and see how everything works together, this includes physical relationships, interactions of color etc.
I feel this process helps me slow down, enjoy my time more, and I have more purpose in making a photo, instead of just 'capturing' whats in front of the camera.
I'm sure others use different methods, some people just like to keep things simple, this helps since clutter distracts and all you are left with is a single focal point so to speak.
#7. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 5
Wed 03-Dec-08 03:17 PM
Everyone talks about a "workflow" when it comes to the post-picture-taking process on the computer. Your list is what I'd call the "thoughtflow" that precedes the picture-taking moment. I liked it! It's the first time I see such a pre-snapshot to-do list.
As you indicated, I am doing a little bit of this process, although not in such a methodical way. I'm going to try and emulate this process, although I suspect it will take some effort -- I'm too scatter-brain at times...
#6. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
Regarding snow flakes it is about "rate of change across the field of view" so focal lenght can be a factor. Flash will freeze flakes in front of you so using flash in a slow sync mode to keep the ambient light is one way to go. Also a slow shutter speed will give you longer streaks while fast shutter speed will not. Large flakes are better than small flakes... There is no one set of conditions but a range that works.
I do not have many landscapes shot while it is snowing but I do have wildlife shots. As a matter of fact I waited last year for when it snowed to go out and shoot Snow Monkeys in the snow. Here is one captured at 1/500 sec, not flash, and a FL of about 125mm http://www.pbase.com/alvalentino/image/93328226 If you click on the picture you will see more
Albert J Valentino
Nikonian Moderator Emeritus
Vantage Point Images
Mastery of Composition is the Key to Great Photography
#9. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 6
Wed 03-Dec-08 08:54 PM
Let me first say that more and more this forum becomes my favorite online hangout spot; the direct and helpful input/feedback one can get from award-winning photographers such as Marsel and yourself is incredible!
Now, back to techniques: I know the underlying basics regarding the "rate of change across the field of view". As I mentioned, that is what I tried to achieve with a slow shutter and the flash. However, when I look at your Snow Monkies picture and consider the info provided under the images, I believe may shutter was way too slow, and the snow simply "vanished" to become fog-like. I will have to try again.
BTW 1: Your Baby Snow Monkey image says that you used a 70-200 lens, but below it it says "... at 280 mm ..." -- how come?
BTW 2: Where did you take the Charging Cougar image? It's awsome!
BTW 3: You got some truly stunning images there!
#13. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 9
#8. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
dittos to all the other comments. What separates the snapshot from the photograph is the theme, compostion of your photo.
Barren winter, solitude, cold, devoid of life. This crop of your image may show my theme.
Your camera, mounted on at tripod at 1/8 sec would have captured the snow falling.
Just a thought and hopefully a helpful hint
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#10. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 8
Thu 04-Dec-08 01:13 PM
Joseph - I was actually thinking along the same lines as I was reading what people said here. I even did something very similar to what you did: turned to grayscale and cropped. Althoght not very noticable yet, but he snow streaks start to show against the trees.
Looking at it, I realize I forgot to apply angle correction: it needs a couple degrees counterclockwise.
I think that this is as much salvation that can be done to my disaster...
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#11. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
No matter how pretty the weather is, you need to frame it, like any shot, within a composition that is interesting to the viewer. I believe that is the issue here.
#14. "RE: How to take good snow scene images" | In response to Reply # 0
This is going to be a long winter so you have a lot of opportunities to get it right. What I suggest you do is to start scoping out a few scenic locations within close proximity to your house.
Maybe it's a nice lake or river? Maybe it's the striking solo tree in the middle of a field? Maybe it's that country road lined with pine trees? Or maybe it's that red tractor sitting in a field of white.
The point is...have a place in mind in advance, so when it snows you'll be ready.
Dress warm. Have good boots. Think about a rain cover for your camera. Get a good pair of gloves (gloves without fingertips work well). Watch camera condensation. And most important of all, have fun.