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.

Snowplows and cabin fever

I’m usually a big fan of our snowplow guys (until they dump a ton of snow in our driveway,) but today, I have to wonder what’s going on.  Did they all take a vacation?  Is there a strike going on that I’m not aware of?  Did the prospect of icy rain scare them off the roads?  Who knows.

Either way, I’m not too happy about the fact that as of 11:45 am, no snowplow or salt truck has plowed either of our roads – the small residential street that our driveway is off of, or the larger, busier, thoroughfare that is in front of the house.  It’s a mess.

Usually these trucks come through at all hours of the night to keep the roads clean.  If the storm hits at 2:00am, the trucks are out there by 3 or 4 am constantly clearing the main road, at the very least.  We can count on a plow clearing our residential street by midmorning at least, and they always come through and clear it again right after I finish cleaning out the driveway.  Murphy’s law – a clean driveway must be irresistable to them.  I can just picture one of the truck drivers muttering “Must…drag…snow…into…the driveway!  Must…block…them…in!” 

So, instead of going out and doing the things I need to do like get groceries and go on a photo shoot, I’m housebound.  Again.  I’m not a bad driver when the weather is nasty, but I do know my limits.  Two to four inches of slushy snow pounded into mush on the roadway is not a good situation for me to drive in, especially when it’s starting to sleet.  I had hoped that the salt would make things safe enough for me to go out, but the lack of any work on the roads is giving me cabin fever.

So.  Here’s a product of our icicles – the bottom layer, of sorts.  As the icicles drip off the warmer roof, the droplets splash into the snow and refreeze, producing a lacy stalagmite to the larger stalactite hanging above.   Gravity wins in the end, producing a sheet of droplets instead of a spike.

I guess it’s time to go work on culling the files I don’t need – office work is certainly not my favorite thing to do!