The difficulties of photographing snow

I’ve recently realized that snow is not an easy thing to photograph.  Nor is ice, but for different reasons.  After my hike today – a very liberal use of the word hike – I’m unhappy with almost every image I took. 

I already knew the basics, like the camera meter wouldn’t  calculate the white on white very well, so I overexposed my images by at least a full stop.  I knew the white balance would need tinkering as well – an overall blue cast is not a lovely thing. 

What I didn’t realize is that snow in massive quantities removes enough details that the image looks flat.  It’s not that I didn’t capture detail in my images of snowy fields and forests – it’s more that the detail is only there in areas where the snow didn’t cling.  When you add winter lighting into the mix – cloudy, overcast, looks like it’s going to snow again – it’s a recipe for a really ugly, flat photograph.  

So.  Lesson learned.  Skip the knee-plunging hikes into frigid crusty snow and go for details.   I would have cheerfully offered up an arm or a leg for a good pair of snowshoes today:  the frozen rain we had a few days ago hardened the surface of the snow almost enough for me to walk on the top of it.  Almost, but not enough.  I finally took to carefully backtracking  in my own footsteps to make things easier on myself on the way out. 

Even though I’m not really happy with my images I got a chance to escape being snowbound.  While I didn’t truly capture the beauty of what I set out to photograph, I can say the woods were breathtakingly gorgeous dressed in ice with a dusting of snow.  Sometimes, just being there is worth the effort.  No photographs required.

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2 thoughts on “The difficulties of photographing snow

  1. I certainly agree with the last statement. Sometimes just being there can not be expressed via the photographic medium. Best thing to do is just breathe it in, right? Though I think the camera still serves as a viable tool…it gives reason to get out and observe, to capture within. Take your observation about the ‘blue cast’. Most people don’t notice the color of the light and its qualities. Photographers HAVE to deal with that, whether it is to correct, or exaggerate, or leave it be…whatever best expresses the feelings that we try to get across.

    • Photography has certainly offered me the “excuse” of getting out there to breath things in 🙂 The camera is probably responsible for me getting more exercise, so all together it’s a good thing!

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