Do you know that? Taking Photos on Snow
Having a digital compact is almost an obligation these days and for many there will wait a digital present under a Christmas tree. And many wouldn’t have patience and will try it as soon as possible. During holidays many of you will visit places, where the snow is little bit whiter than in cities. When I, a long admirer of digital photo, look every year to an extensive offering of photo equipment, to all these electro-megashops, I see all these ultra smart digi toys that basically do everything instead of you.
A number of smart camera owners is growing, however, a number of real photographers is decreasing. However, this doesn’t hold true every time. On the contrary for many a simpler camera opened a window to a magic world of exposition, composition, light effects and infinite creativity. Many fresh owners of some Smart cameras or affordable digital reflex cameras feel that the more expensive, professional and smarter camera they have the more creative they will be. Even the smartest compact camera with many presets, e.g. sport, portrait, landscape, panorama, fireworks and many else, is still just an automat doing what it wants. Even better compact cameras don’t offer manual functions such as shutter or aperture settings. The only one adjustable function is exposition priority, a well-known EV in +/- 3.
What is EV? Simply put EV is a value of exposition composition, or rather Exposure Value. The number itself shows a combination of time and shutter. You will read more about these terms in our photo-school articles. Familiarity of exposition value is more than important if you want work with camera on some advanced level. However, we will talk about it, hopefully, someday later. Today we will talk how to work with these numbers in case of traditional cameras, namely on snow.
We know that if we set some of plus numbers (e.g. +0,5, 1, 2, 3 etc.) the final snapshot will be brighter (slightly overexposed) if compared with an average EV 0. The same is in the case of minus numbers and eventual “underexposition”, darker image. An automatic camera usually averages lightness of the whole scene (only if we don’t set gauging at some particular point or zone). We can then only slightly adjust exposition of final image by setting the EV.
If we take pictures in the evening, in the night etc. and the scene is dark, the automatic camera inclines to set longer exposition or use a flash. In a case of extremely dark scenes it makes usually a longer exposition (“underexpose”). You usually get this effect in extremely sunny weather or if you have a dominating light or shinning object. Something standing by itself is taking photos on snow. Sufficiency and sometimes excess of lights or thousands of mini reflections of snowflakes on sunny winter mountains, ski slopes or ridges are great background for taking “action” pictures that will freeze a movement of hurrying riders. Nevertheless, what to do, when an omnipresent light makes an automatic camera to underexpose the image? When this happens, we set EV values to match our desires. Similarly we resolve overexposed images. However, beware of contrast when it makes also some burns on bright parts of photos and extremely dark shadows. Landscape photos should make an impression of harmony. On the contrary sports should be sharp and dynamic. However, everything depends on what the author prefers. In a case of digital cameras everything that is once burned to white loses its depiction and couldn’t be rescued on subsequent tuning on a computer. Basically photos on snow looks good with a bluish overexposition (+0,5 to +1), rather then ashy grey as a result of automatics. I don’t recommend to bet only on one type of settings depending on what you see outside or on a ski slope on you display. Frost, sun, and fog – everything can have negative effect on your judgment. Even correctly exposed shots can look dark and unclear on bright sunlight. You then add exposition and your photos will be burned. However, there are some models (and there are lots of them) with Snow presets. Then consider your battle won. In case of really “antic” models on which you can’t set anything, just try to focus on such area to make your automatics set a correct exposition
Something other is a work with full manual settings, or with shutter or aperture, using polarizing filters etc. We spoke about these topics in previous articles of our virtual photoschool .
Text/foto: Jan Chaloupka
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