Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Photographing Winter Landscapes
Winter landscapes speak for themselves. Snow filters down in a whisper and paints a sea of lush white. The world is transformed to a wonderland, bringing back joyful childhood memories even to the most disagreeable old fogy. So how do you capture winter's soft-spoken demeanor? Think like an artist, noting shading, light, form, and gesture.
First, the tranquil...freshly laid snow, undisturbed and pristine, soft and quiet...a real heart stopper for the wandering soul who dons winter gear and faces the elements. First, what not to do, and that is to go out in glaring sunlight to take snow pictures. It is loud. it is brass. And it glares, making contrasty pictures that assault the eye.
Instead, I like to choose either early morning or late day when sunlight is soft. In the evening on clear days, in particular, the sun renders a soft orange illumination, which combined with open shade brings the snow to life. If the sun comes out, it is a soft touch, giving the land a glowing new perspective with softly defined lines between sun and shade.
Well, that's what the eyes sees. Bringing it to the picture is not as stellar because that soft glow is lost and flattened in the two-dimensional world of a photograph. But shooting in soft light is always a good thing. In this case, rustic tree bark and sun-goldened shrubbery can take on a detailed, interesting contrast to pure white snow. But be careful with your f-stop. Automatic metering registers "normal" as neutral gray to cover all situations. (Hey, generalization is what automation is all about). So you may want to open up a stop or check the setting on your digital camera for a white balance setting to get sparkling white snow instead of dingy gray.
Second, the harsher side of winter...I like to go close up to emphasize the season's icy aspects. Filling the frame with a twig encased in a frozen droplet or a study of snow on trees or fence posts can produce interesting results. Think like an artist to bring your theme home. A snowy fence post leading into the center of the picture is ultimately more interesting than one which runs across the frame horizontally. Snow-covered trees have form and gesture. Some trees, stately and majestic, hold their own while others speak volumes in groupings that fill the frame like dancers on a stage. My point is looking at this new snow-world has much to offer, not only in the normal view, but also in the world close-up or even impressionistic.
Finally, as the day comes to a close, winter's drama is at hand in a glowing sunset view with long shadows stretched across the snow in a blazing light. The setting sun puts the winter landscape to sleep in a beautiful power play that shows the both of best worlds. Be sure to catch this magic moment, and hurry, because it doesn't last for long.
Copyright 2008 JO Janoski