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.