Tips Photographing Snow

With the snow starting to fall again, I thought it was the ideal time to put up some posts about Tips  photographing snowy winter wonderland. One of the questions I often asked is “how do I record the snow as a pristine surface with no shadows, foot prints, bumps lumps etc?”.

Well you’ll be pleased to know there are no tricks to it and nothing to do with Photoshop it all depends on the light and the quality of the light. (read article about The Importance of Light in Photography) My absolute favourite conditions to photographing snow are usually late in the day and when there is a fully overcast sky, the stormier the better. On a fully overcast day there are no shadows cast and this is the simple secret to getting the smooth flat snowy surface, in fact if there is any light sources illuminating the snow, whether the sun or a street lamp it will create shadows due to the lumps and bumps in the snow.

Another consideration is the aperture used and even the height the photo is taken from.When  photographig snow, i take a shoot using the tripod at head height and a generally shot at a wide aperture such as f2.8 or f4, focussed on my point of interest such as a tree. I do this for a number of reasons… as the camera is higher off the ground the fine detail in the snow is not visible due to the height and the wide aperture ensures that there is a softness on the objects closest to the lens. The opposite effect would be shoot with the camera maybe 30cm of the ground and at f22, you would then see detail in the snow, although this is exactly what I am trying to avoid.

The photo shown above is taken just a few miles from my house so I don’t have to venture too far in the worst of weather to find some potential snowy subjects. The shot was taken about 15:00 so the light had already started to fade and with a dark stormy sky the conditions were ideal. I got the smooth white snow I was after and another effect I particularly like is the sky to be darker than the snowy foreground. 

The second example above was taken again very near home and in easy walking distance irregardless of what the road conditions and weather are up to, I think during winter snowy winter conditions it is an ideal time to explore and photograph pretty much in your back yard, well at least a few miles in each direction.

This photo was actually taken on a nearby golf course that had various groups of trees that were ideal subject matter although I was really interested in these five saplings and how different each one was. It was already getting dark when I took this shot so I used a low vantage point to hide the lights from some houses a few miles away. The flat grey sky and the low light meant that the sky and the snow were the same brightness which allows a very minimalist image with just the stark silhouettes of the five trees to break up the high key scene.

The final example above was taken a little further away from home, in fact is was taken halfway around the world in Japan. The same rules apply as with the photos above, there was very little direct light from the sun although it did occasionally appear through the clouds so I had to wait until it was hidden in order to get the smooth snow effect. The sky was nice and overcast with a mixture of dark and light clouds which give a nice contrast compared with the smooth bright snow.

With all these photos each has a single point of interest whether a single tree or even a copse on a distant hill, the rest of the scene is almost empty just snow and sky creating a tranquil, peaceful result. Stay tuned for a update tomorrow where I look at creating ultra minimalist photos in the snow.

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By Mark

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