Film Photography

Photographing snow

Still life with snow

I keep trying to photograph snow, and I keep getting mixed results.

It’s because it takes some finesse to make a camera expose snow properly. Cameras with built-in meters tend to overcompensate, leading to gray snow. Even when the exposure is right, vast expanses of white tend to look washed out.

One snowy afternoon I took my Nikon F3 out briefly while I shoveled my driveway. As you can see in this shot of my resting shovel, the meter exposed for the non-white elements in the frame, which led to the snow washing right out.

Sometimes a camera does all right with it. The photo below came from my Olympus Trip 35 several years ago. The exposure is just right for the house, the trees, and the sky, yet the snowy yard is washed out only right in the middle.

Snow-covered yard with dog

But I’ve had a few moments of good luck that have taught me a thing or two. First: look for textures in the snow, and photograph them. Here I shot my Canon PowerShot S95. This was actually after an ice storm; this snow was rock solid and supported my weight!

The frozen yard

While shooting my Kodak 35 earlier this year, I hoped it would pick up the delightful shadows this tree’s branches cast in the late-afternoon sun. I hoped to use the snow as a canvas. To bring the shadows out I needed to play with contrast and brightness a little bit in Photoshop.

Snow shadows

But I think the best thing is to use snow as an element of a shot, rather than shoot it for its own sake. Here, the snow adds interest to this old Cadillac’s front end. Believe it or not, I shot this with my Palm Pre.

Snow-covered Caddy

And here, the snow provides a clean backdrop for my late friend Gracie, and creates abstract shapes where it rests on that bush. I think this is another S95 shot.

Dog in the snow

As you can see, despite learning a few things, I still haven’t entirely figured out how to photograph snow. And now that spring is arriving, snow is but a memory until next winter. I’ll have more opportunities to practice then. A big part of the fun of photography for me is figuring things like this out.

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Snow shadows

Snow shadows
Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 400
2015

Film Photography
Image

Snow-covered Caddy

Snow-covered Caddy
Palm Pre
2010

Photography
Image

Dog in the snow

Dog in the snow
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

Photography
Image

Snow-covered Matrix

Snow-covered Matrix
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2007

Photography
Image
Photography

Photographs from an Indiana snowstorm

A foot of snow fell. Then the temperatures plunged well below zero. That was enough to shut Indiana down.

Just before the cold arrived, but not before the snow stopped, I went out to clear my driveway. The dense, heavy snow weighed everything down. Tree branches touched the ground, the same ones that clear my head when I mow in the summer.

Snowy day

Serious snows are rare in Indianapolis. But they were common in my hometown of South Bend in the late 1970s and 1980s when I was young but old enough to lift a shovel. I’m plenty familiar with removing this much snow, but since moving this far south I seldom have to do it. Thank goodness. My middle-aged body hurts for a good long while after this much exertion.

Snowy day

I frequently don’t bother shoveling my driveway because Indianapolis winter snows are usually pretty light and are often followed by a melt. If God’s going to take away what he gives, I’m going to let him! And that’s going to happen this time, too – it will be in the 40s this weekend. But the snow was too deep to drive through, so I removed it. Well, all except for around my second car. Thanks to the coming melt, it will hit the road again soon enough. Until then, I’ll drive the car I keep in the garage.

Snowy day

I was running out of daylight anyway. I needed to hurry and get the main part of the driveway done.

Snowy day

The snow didn’t stop falling until well after dark. Morning greeted us at 17 degrees below zero. The mayor declared an emergency and travel was forbidden. So it went across most of the state – this weather effectively closed Indiana. I worked all day from my home office.

I did take a break during the afternoon when the temperature rose all the way to -11, the high for the day. I went out and cleared four more inches of snow off the driveway. Fortunately, it was light powder and cleared quickly, because even wearing many layers and my heaviest winter coat -11 is mighty, mighty cold. My nostrils kept freezing shut! After I came in, it took an hour for my feet to warm back up.

By the end of the workday I was starting to feel a little isolated, so I turned on the local news for company while I ate my dinner. I also fired up my Roku to watch Tagesschau, the evening newscast from Germany’s ARD television network. I spoke German almost fluently a quarter century ago, but have hardly used the language since. Watching Tagesschau is a feeble attempt at keeping what’s left of my German abilities sharp. I understand about half of every newscast.

tagesschau
Image from tagesschau.de

I was delighted that Indiana’s weather plight was recognized even in Germany. It helped me feel better, especially since I needed to work from home one more day thanks to continued deep cold and ice-covered streets.

Also check out the ice storm we had a few years ago. Indiana winters, whee.

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