It has been snowing for the last few days. I am stuck indoors with nothing much to do. A fire is burning is downstairs but it seems inadequate in keeping me warm. I have a cup of hot chocolate with me, and my feet are resting on a hot water bottle. My fingers are feeling cold while I type on the keyboard. Yes, this is definitely the peak of the winters here.
I had a discussion with my daughter who has now started showing interest in photography. Her idea was to enjoy the chilled weather and snow. Go out with the camera and do some photography. She does have the right ideas in her mind.
She suggested, let the photographs show the beauty of snow with a feel of frozen Arendelle, the city from her favorite animation series, The Frozen. We first analyzed what that meant. Such photographs should have ample snow, fresh snow preferably. Immaculate and pure white. But the photographs should not be in black and white. This was a good start for me. Instructions noted in my mind, and a faint idea of what she meant by the Arendelle look, I got ready to brave the chilled winds and step out.
Everything was greyish white. To me, it was a depressing sight, but my daughter had her own imagination. She could see lots of snow all around and someone called Olaf hopping around. It was beautiful through her eyes. I had to learn to see like her and then photograph it. (I was not too happy with the post-processing but she loved it. More about it later on.)
(25mm lens at f/11 and 1/250 sec, metered at -1EV, post-processed in Affinity Photo)
The whole scene was almost monochrome. For the impact to come out, I first needed a dramatic change in colors. First I tried some photographs when there was a dark cloud in front bringing out the snowy foreground. The image turned out nice with a beautiful snowy evening impact but not something that would please my daughter.
It had to be more bluish and with some kind of light that adds beauty. Nature was on my side.
For the next image, the skies opened up a little and a streak of light lit the scene. Overall it was dark and ambient light was less. While using Auto-ISO, the camera had shifted to 720 ISO while using f/8 aperture and 1/30 shutter speed with the Zeiss 25mm lens.
Preview the Histogram
I was using evaluative metering (3D Matrix) but still had to rely on preview screen and histograms to understand the correctness of exposure. The blue histogram was towards the right with +2/3 EV compensation, without any loss of highlights.
While clicking snow photographs, do keep an eye on the histogram, especially the blue one. If it tends to clip, then reduce the exposure a little. I prefer using center-weighted metering and over-exposing the image. However, evaluative metering seems to work better (though not perfect). My reason for using center-weighted metering in most images is that it always underexposes (by averaging white snow to 18% grey), and so I can overexpose and compensate properly. 3D Matrix metering or Evaluative metering tends to work correctly most of the time but in some extreme scenes the lack of some standard reference points like proper white spots in the image, this metering mode may get thrown off and cause gross errors in metering.
So, my motto – better to stick to a known problem rather than being at the mercy of an unknown factor.
(Deck with Snow )
Now, I was getting the hang of what to click and how to show the landscape. My daughter was also happy. We were turning our home into Arendelle.
Next, was a sitting area we had set up, under an old apricot tree. This is a fun place to relax under the shade in summer. But, now, it had a different look. The bare branches were laden with snow and the benches underneath peeped out from a corner. I photographed it from a high-up place to increase the focus on the snow-laden tree. The opening in the cloudy sky added to the impact of this photograph too.
(Snow-laden Apricot Tree, with the sitting area underneath. While post-processing, I worked on the contrast of the mid-tones and increased that, also added a bit of punch using Vibrance Tool)
While post-processing, I worked on three main things, with frequent instructions from my daughter.
- I corrected the overall exposure using Curves Tool and added more contrast in the mid-tones.
- Corrected the white balance to a cooler tint. This adds the winter touch.
- Increased the Vibrance so as to make the drab looking scene look more impactful.
The evening was beautiful. The sky was as I needed it. The ambient light in its cool shades conveying the winter chill properly. The scene was all set.
I clicked another landscape just to record the scene for future use. Even this turned out nice.
Again with +2/3 EV exposure and Auto-ISO. When technology is there, why not use it? I left the camera to Auto-ISO while keeping an eye on the noise introduced by high ISOs. ( Auto ISO )
(Winter Wonderland – Nikon Df with Zeiss 25mm lens)
My fingers were getting numb. That small fire inside the house seemed more inviting than the scenes outside. After clicking these few photographs, I went back into the house.
Time to watch ‘Frozen II’ with her, and enjoy some more hot chocolate.
Yes, we are lucky to have such a snowfall at times. And yes, life is not exactly a piece of cake here. Everything has its pluses and minuses. It is just how you see it. For me, it was a frigidly cold day. For my daughter, it was a winter wonderland. It is just a matter of mind over matter.
Do visit us sometime, at our homestay – Maini’s Hill Cottages