It’s Snow Time!
It’s that wonderful time of year where Mother Nature reminds us that it is, in fact, winter. And with that reminder comes everyone’s most and least favorite weather condition: snow. As a photographer, snow can still be a very fun thing no matter what it is you like to take pictures of. Here are a couple tips to help make your snow photo adventure a little more fun.
First, a little prep work is needed before you head outside. Make sure that you have a spare battery and that all your batteries are charged. Keep your spare batteries in a warm pocket to help prevent them from draining more quickly. If you have a lens hood, then go ahead and put it on your camera. I also suggest using a circular polarizing filter as well. Be sure to dress appropriately for going outside. Boots or shoes that are warm and in good shape are a must as snow getting into your shoes could be a recipe for disaster. Wear a warm coat, but don’t wear anything too warm. Being too hot in the cold can be problematic for your health. I also recommend a hat to help keep your head and ears warm. Your hands are going to be the tricky part. You need to wear gloves to keep them warm, but more often than not, gloves can hinder your ability to control your camera. For that, I recommend what I call “shooter’s mittens,” or fingerless gloves that have a mitten-like flap to cover your fingertips when you don’t need to do anything to your camera. Be sure to bring a couple cleaning cloths and a large ziplock bag with you as well. Once you’re outside, don’t try to keep your camera warm. That might actually cause condensation to occur on the camera, which is a bad thing. Try to put the lens cap back on when you’re not taking photos. If it’s actively snowing outside, don’t be afraid to use a rain cover for your camera to help keep it dry.
Now that we’ve got all the prep work handled, it’s time to go take some pictures. Be mindful of how and where you walk. This isn’t just a safety concern, but an artistic one as well. The last thing you want to do is unintentionally put a bunch of footprints into your nice, scenic shot. Don’t delete anything that you think doesn’t turn out until after you’ve taken it home for a closer (and warmer) look. Sometimes, the smaller screen of the camera can hide an interesting picture. Try to not only take pictures of vast snowscapes, but of other things like trees and statues as well. A large field with a blanket of snow is nice, but after a while, pictures like that can start to blend together. Other things in your pictures can not only help break up the monotony but can also help differentiate where the pictures were taken. When composing your shot, remember that a lot of what you see can blend in with each other, especially on an overcast day. With that in mind, try to find interesting angles that allow for a little more contrast between different objects. On a related note, certain colors like red tend to pop out especially well on a snow-covered landscape.
It’s also important to think about the more technical aspect of photography as well. Many auto features on cameras may not accurately portray the winter wonderland you see before you. Be sure to properly white balance your camera when you start. You want to make sure that your images are neither too blue nor too yellow. It’s also important to note that you may have to overexpose your pictures in order to avoid looking back to find everything is dark and grey. If you’re out taking pictures while it’s snowing, then you have a couple more options to consider. If you want to see the snowflakes falling in your shot, you’ll need to set your camera to a fast shutter speed. I recommend starting at 1/250 of a second and getting faster as needed. If you want the opposite effect and to not have the falling snow play a factor in your image, bring along your trusty tripod (and possibly an ND filter) and get set up for a long-exposure image.
Once you’ve gotten all the pictures you’ve wanted, or have decided that it’s too cold to stay out any longer, it’s time to head on in. Before going inside, take your memory card out of your camera. Remember that large ziplock bag I mentioned earlier? Go ahead and put your camera in it while you’re still outside. This is also another measure to help prevent your camera from being damaged by condensation on or inside it. If you don’t have a large ziplock bag, your regular camera bag can work as well, but it may not be as effective. When you get back into warmer conditions, let your camera set for a while and slowly get back to room temperature before doing any cleaning up and recharging your batteries. Take advantage of this time to grab a warm drink, get comfortable, and look at or edit your photos on your computer.
Have fun out there! We can’t wait to see what you and your camera discover this winter.
-Nick Butcher, Creve Coeur Camera – Edwardsville, IL
Photos by Nick Butcher