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Capture Moody Snow Scenes

Charge your camera batteries, dress warmly, grab the camera and revel in capturing wonderful powder photos. Freshly fallen snow provides amazing advantages to photographers who seize the opportunity. Snow transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland, covers up debris and disguises other distractions. Leafless bushes become pillars of white, mundane boulders transform into soft fluffy pillows, the grand landscape becomes pastoral and takes on a tranquil peacefulness unobtainable under any other conditions. A huge perk to winter photography is the sun rises much later and sets earlier in the day, which allows you to sleep in or return from your shoot and eat dinner at a normal time.

Magical Colors

Snow reflects the color of the sky. This behooves you to be in position for dawn light and to stay out till dusk to impart vibrant, warm tones upon it. Be sure to include the colorful sunrise or sunset clouds into your composition. This explains to the viewer from where the color is communicated. If the sky is void and divulges simple blue, use a polarizer to enhance it, but be cognizant of your angle to the sun. To get the most polarization, create compositions 90 degrees to it. If you utilize a super wide in conjunction with a polarizer, the density of the sky will be uneven. Deep blue will appear at the 90-degree maximum angle and get progressively lighter. It’s not a desired look. Therefore, if the use of a super wide is essential for the composition, back off the polarizer and selectively saturate the blues when you optimize the photo.


Camera meters are calibrated to obtain proper exposures of 18 percent gray cards. This translates to gray snow since the camera tries to bias white snow to 18 percent gray. Set the exposure compensation button on your camera to a + setting. The amount is determined by how much white fills the composition and how much direct light it receives. For instance, if you fill the frame with just snow, you’ll need to go +1 to 2 stops. If there are other dark or shadow areas in the composition, the amount of compensation will be less. The important concept to keep in mind is some sort of exposure biasing is necessary. It absolutely behooves you to check your histogram for every composition to determine how much you need to alter the exposure.

The Light

Snow photography in the winter is beneficial as the sun never gets high in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead, it doesn’t provide a good light angle. Even though the color becomes cool in the morning and in early afternoon, the angle of the sun is still conducive to good photography. Low angle light creates shadows, highlights, textures and shapes. Simply stated, when the sun is lower in the sky, the light is more dynamic. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make low-angle backlit snow images. The landscape takes on a sparkle and contributes to the effect it glistens like tiny diamonds. Sidelight brings out three dimensionality in all your subjects. Try to avoid front light unless it’s utilized just when the sun is on the horizon. Once it gets higher, warm colors disappear and the angle makes everything look flat and uninteresting.

To learn more about this subject, join me on one of my photo safaris to Tanzania. Please visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.