Taking photos in snow

A friend of mine recently asked me for some advice on taking photographs in the snow. I've listed some of the advice and tips that I have picked up:

When moving the camera between a warm place and the cold (or cold to warm) you should take care to avoid condensation as it can not only fog a lens but potentially the sensor itself. The trick is to let the camera acclimatize.. ideally in an air-tight zip-lock type back. This will prevent condensation. NOTE - Take the memory card out whilst out doors before sealing the camera in an air-tight bag go in-doors or you'll have to wait a couple of hours before you can get to your photos. Keeping the camera in a zipped up camera bag also helps in the event that you don't have an air-tight bag to hand.

When it is snowing it is a good idea to protect your gear as you would in rain... snow melts as soon as it hits the camera... unless the camera has been fully acclimatized i.e. left in outside overnight. Get a decent weather cover such as the excellent Kata E-702 GDC Element Cover

Get a Spare battery... batteries drain amazingly fast in cold weather...

Adjust exposure compentation to +1 stop (or even +2 stops in some circumstances)
Cameras are tuned to expose for mid-grey and they will sometimes get fooled by the white snow into under-exposing. Avoid letting the highlights 'blow out' (Keep the histogram set to blink when over-exposed and if you find this happening, dial back the exposure compensation)

Wrap up warm and don't take any unnecessary risks

Total Geek Out!

DSLR User Magazine in the UK recently ran an article of photographing a model of the Millenium Falcon from the Star Wars films... They are running a competition to win the model based on the best post-production modification of their photograph... I think I'll give it a go... it'll give me an excuse to brush up on my Photoshop skills

Details of the competition can be found here and I'll post my efforts shortly

NIK HDR Efex Pro Ships

NIK Software have started to ship their HDR software - HDR Efex Pro.  I have completed a quick side by side comparison of HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix Pro and I would say that NIK is comparing very well. 

Out of the box NIK HDR Efex Pro manages very realistic and natural looking HDR renditions. There are a large number of pre-sets available to help the user 'play' with the effects possible. Each Pre-Set could be achieved through the adjustment sliders and clicking on a preset results in the sliders positioning themselves as necessary. This helps the user get to grips with the range of styles achievable quickly... although some of the pre-sets can result in some tacky looking renders :-)

HDR Efex Pro is a little slower than Photomatix on my machine (Mac Pro Quad Core 266 with 8GB RAM) but is usable...

I experimented with the software by re-visiting a recent HDR and attempting to re-render with HDR Efex Pro. The result looked better than my previous post production which was achieved after a significant amount of work in Photomatix. Here are the shots for reference, which do you prefer?

Photomatix Pro Default HDR RenderPhotomatix Pro

HDR Efex Pro Default HDR RenderNIK Softwares HDR Efex PRo

 

 

Photomatix Pro Vs Nik HDR Efex Pro

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is gaining in popularity. I have access to both Photomatix Pro and NIK Softwares's HDR Efex Pro.

I have taken three exposures of a scene, metering one stop over and under to capture detail in both foreground and sky.

The location is Coniston Water in the Lake District. All three shots were taken with the camera mounted on a Tripod to help alignment in the HDR software.

These three shots were exported to Photomatix Pro and an HDR image generated with default settings see below

+1 EV

 

0 EV

-1 EV

 

Photomatix Pro (default Settings) NIK HDR Efex Pro

10 Stop Neutral Density (ND) Filters

An ND filter can help with creative exposures by reducing the light into the sensor. For Example a 10 stop Neutral Density Filter such as the B+W 3.0 or the Lee 'Big Stopper' would reduce the light reaching the sensor by10 stops... that is a 1/50 second exposure would be extended to 20 seconds or 10x longer.

Uses: A 20 second exposure could be used to blur waves into a soft, misty effect as illustrated in the 20 second exposure of a Californian beach shown here.

California Sunset - 20 Second Exposure

I have the B+W 3.0 10 Stop ND Filter but if you have already invested in the Lee filter system the 'Big Stopper' filter by Lee is worth a look. It has a slightly more natural color cast than the B+W which does give a warm tone, although a lot of people find the B+W tone pleasing in most circumstances

It is very hard to focus or compose a scene through a 10 Stop filter unless the scene is very bright to begin with and an advantage of the Lee Big Stopper system is that it is easier to remove the filter for focusing and composition. The Round screw in B+W filter takes more effort to add and remove from the lens.

 

Guide to Photographing Loch Ard

Following on from my recent guide to photographing Coniston Water in the Lake District, I thought I'd wander through my back catalogue of photographs and add some brief guides to other photogenic locations that I have visited recently.

A brief photographic guide to Loch Ard in Scotland.

Thanks to David Mould who put together a detailed and informative 'Photographers Guide to Loch Ard' - I discovered this excellent guide in time to make one more early morning trip over to this location.

The shot here was taken looking East down the lock to the 'Sunrise' (sadly hidden by cloud on this September Morning) It is possible to park in the handy carpark next to the village hall. There is easy access to the edge of the loch.

A photographers Guide to Loch Ard

 

Loch Ard at dawn

Guide to Photographing Coniston Water - Location Map

I have recently returned from a short trip to the Lake District. I was staying near the villiage of High Nibthwaite on the East shores of Coniston Water, a great base for exploring this picturesque location.

I thought I'd put together a brief guide to some of the locations that I discovered in my time there and illustrate these areas with some of the photographs that I captured at the time.

Coniston runs roughly North - South and therefore gives a number of options for dawn and dusk photography taking advantage of views from both East and West sides of the Lake.

Coniston is not as accessible as some of the Lakes in the Lake District such as the beautiful Buttermere which is circumvented almost entirely by a footpath.

I have included a simple map to the Coniston area and indicated the three locations that I have included in my brief guide to Photographing Coniston Water in the Lake District. I hope that you find this information useful and I would enjoy seeing your photos from this area. 

A Guide to Photographing Coniston Water - Location A

Location A: South West Jetty

The Photo below was taken from the banks of the Lake near to a wooden Jetty located to the South-West of the lake. The road (A5084) to the West of the Lake passes over a cattle grid as you drive North from the Southern end of the lake/ Just after this spot the land on the right opens up and a view of the Lake and some boats can be seen appx. 200 yards in the distance. There is a parking area just a few yards further on on the right. If you park here there is a short path to a gate into the field that you just passed. This field allows access to the edge of the lake and some stunning views North. There are always boats here to provide foreground interest.

Along the bank from the path there is a gate providing access to the Jetty. It is meant for use by passengers only but I was not challenged on any of the occasions that I accessed the Jetty.

Double Rainbow over Coniston Water, Cumbria

This location has views East over Coniston Water and is a good option for dawn if the forecast is for interesting weather (broken cloud) It is not usually at it's best on clear mornings.

These photos were taken just after dawn and benefit from releatively calm conditions and broken cloud to catch the morning light. The 30 minutes prior to sunrise are often when the wind is at it's calmest. A breeze can pick up quickly shortly after sunrise and ruin calm water reflections.

The other advantage of dawn is that this location is easier to access when it is quiet. Technically the jetty is for passenger use only.