In Tennessee, the snowfalls we have yearly can usually be counted on one hand. What better way to capture snow than with the camera?
Preparing to go outside while it is snowing requires several things, mostly how to keep your camera equipment safe from the wet and cold. For the camera, some type of covering should be considered. There are professional covers available, but a simple clear plastic bag will work, with a hole the size of the lens on your camera, leaving the back end open for you to place your hands and make adjustments, and fitting the cut hole over the front of the lens. Carrying the camera on a strap around the neck, and leaving it inside a coat or jacket or inside an inner pocket is another way of protecting it from moisture. You will still need something around the camera to keep it from getting wet when you remove it to take a shot. You do have to deal with the extra plastic, even with the protectors made for cameras, and make sure the plastic is not over the end of the lens when you take the shot. I once took a series of pictures leaving the end of the lens within a clear plastic bag (no hole in the end to take the picture through) and the images were all soft, or muted. It worked for that episode, but would not for many. It’s also good to take a lens cloth and maybe a clean soft rag to wipe the camera body and the end of the lens in case snow or rain get on it. It’s best to wipe it off right away, in between shots. If you have a lens on which a clear protective filter can be used, like a UV (ultra violet) filter, when the snow is falling would be the time to use it.
If the temperature is very cold, and your camera has gotten cold, you should let the camera warm up slowly when returning to a warm area. Some people use a large plastic bag and trap some of the cold air inside, place the camera in the bag and sit it in a cooler part of the house and leave it for thirty minutes or longer. You can also wrap the camera up inside your coat, to help it cool down slowly, or place it in a cooler part of the room, such as on the floor near a door for a while. The reason for this is that camera lenses can fog up if they have the least bit of moisture inside them, and this could cause the lens problems down the road. No problem is caused when taking a warm camera out into a cold environment, but when you warm up a cold camera, that’s when you need to be careful.
Cameras are pre-set to read white as 11% gray. This tells me that when I shoot a picture of snow, the snow part of the image will not be totally white. Sometimes this is ok and sometimes not. Look at the first picture you take, and see if the white seems to be the color you want it or does it seem gray. There are camera adjustments you may be able to make to change the gray to be white. This has to do with the white balance setting of the camera. Some cameras have an exposure compensation dial that can be changed to minus or plus, changing the color of white to be more or less exposed. Your camera manual will tell you if yours will do this or not. If your camera has a snow setting, use that.
Camera batteries go dead quicker in the cold than when warm. So, it would be best to carry extra batteries in a pants pocket or inner jacket pocket to keep them warm in case you must change batteries in the cold.
Snow is bright and reflective. On an overcast day with snow on the ground, you will obtain much greater details in images than on a sunny snow day. The snow on the ground acts as a giant reflector back onto the object you are taking a picture of. So, if you want to get details in your images, try to shoot on an overcast day (example, a portrait). Bright sunlight, especially on snow, tends to accent shadows and you can expect to have areas of brightness and darkness on a sunny snow day. A fun thing to play around with is your camera’s built in flash. If you can set the flash to TTL setting, which is an adjustable flash, try that setting. If you have an adjustable flash, try starting with a low setting to see how that works. For a sunny day, if you are taking a picture of something that you want the details to be strong, and not so much shadows, (close-up), try a small amount of flash. Sometimes that will work to decrease the shadows without making the whites too white. In scenes, the best time to obtain good details would be when the sun is not shining brightly.
The other thing to protect is yourself. Wear sturdy shoes or boots, dress warm, including warm gloves and hat, and if the wind is blowing consider a scarf. I have found the first thing to get cold are my fingers. I wear one pair of gloves (partly wool) inside a pair of mittens that have the ends that will release, and the thumb releases, revealing the gloves inside. I keep the mittens covering my fingers until time to take a picture. Even then, in certain weather, the fingers start feeling the cold after a while. When taking pictures, you are not usually hiking where you build up lots of body heat. You can always remove layers if you get hot, so it’s best to dress in layers. It’s nice to have waterproof jacket, pants and boots, but not necessary. Clothes will dry out! It is not necessary for a person to be uncomfortable taking pictures out in the snow. Don’t let the snow keep you from taking pictures. Sometimes the best shots are when the snow is on the ground, or as it falls!
Have FUN taking snowy pictures, and good luck with them!
The Cookeville Camera Club meets at the First Presbyterian Church in Cookeville the second and fourth Monday evenings. See our schedule on the website: cookevillecameraclub.com. Visitors are always welcome.