Unexpected snapshot success


I’m surprised by this image.  Everyone who sees it (and that’s quite a few because my husband took it into work) comments that it’s “sooooo cute!”  I don’t personally think it’s a good shot for multiple reasons.

  • First, Corbin’s eyes are practically shut.  That’s never a good thing, especially when trying to take pictures of a kid.


  • Second, it’s shot at an odd angle.  (you try shooting in the snow and see how difficult it is!)  I really needed a ladder to get a better angle, and since the snow was melting and we had places to be, this was the best I could do.


  • Third, sure, he’s smiling, but what is he smiling at?  I can tell you his daddy was making him laugh, but you certainly don’t know that just looking at the image.


  • Fourth, I hate shooting in the sun.  It blows out the highlights and amps the contrast way up unless you use a fill-in flash on your subject.  Which I didn’t, since I don’t have an off camera flash or even one that can bounce light when you angle it.  That’s on the list of things to get, but somehow lenses are more enticing, since I don’t usually need a flash in most situations.

Still, when all is said and done, it’s a really cute snapshot that’s easy to understand – Corbin “made” a snow angel (he had assistance, of course) in his first snow.  And he’s happy about it.  Cute!  And I have to say, one thing did work out very well: shooting snow in angled sunlight makes it look much more textured.  Something to remember for future shots, although the sun makes very rare appearances here during the snowy season.

Early Snow

I usually don’t tweak things like this, and to be totally honest, I didn’t tweak it that much.  Still, I usually say that my photos are lightly edited, so I guess I should explain what I did here.

We had a lovely, messy snow in the last few days of October up here in NY.  It didn’t stick to anything hard, but when we got up that morning, anything green was covered with a dusting of snow.  It even lasted most of the day, but I managed to grab a few shots when the morning sun was shining on my back yard.  Given that it’s autumn, the leaves were already a nice rusty color that looked wonderful when the sun was on it.  I wanted to emphasize the color of the leaves more than the initial shot did, so I ended up tweaking it in post (production.)

Now, I could say that I dropped it into Photoshop and did some fancy number with filters and color channels.  Nothing that interesting, sadly.  All I did was tweak the white balance a bit to give it a slightly warmer cast.  It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t tweak it that far because the snow still looks white.  I guess if I really wanted to do things the hard way, I could have slapped some sort of filter on the camera lens itself.

Funnily enough, I didn’t notice until I edited the shot that there’s a water drop on the leaf tip.  Which explains why it’s out of focus.

For those of you who follow this blog, thank you for your patience.  I won’t go into details, but my son has given us a few scares and we still don’t know exactly what’s going on.  We’re praying for the best and still looking for answers.  Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers!

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.

Nature’s sculpture


It’s not often that we get the right kind of snow that makes the trees into fantastic sculptures.  Every once in a while we get ice that serves almost the same purpose, but snow has a much softer look than the hard surfaces of ice.  It’s even more rare to get that kind of snowfall without any sort of breeze kicking in to knock the snow off in a matter of hours.

This weekend was a nasty one by all accounts.  It was a perfect weekend to huddle up on the couch with a blanket and a good book while the snow fell.  And it fell all weekend – from a smattering of flakes on Friday morning to a steady blanket all through Saturday morning.  When it ended (Sunday’s random flakes didn’t count much) we had about 6 inches of soft, fluffy snow.

I’ve always loved the spare look of bare tree branches in winter – it’s the essence of the thing exposed.  When the snow coats the branches, the trees become so much more – they gain in size.  And while I love them all, my neighbor’s Japanese Maple is my favorite tree.

This Saturday was a rare occurence.  Not only did the snow hold while we shoveled the driveway and endless sidewalks clear, it stayed on the trees for the rest of the day.  I seriously considered going for a tree photographing hike – until the sore muscles from shoveling kicked in.   Oww.

Film Confessions: Part 2

I’ve never worked with color film.  At least, not in a professional or academic setting.  I’ve shot some color film for myself and had the dreaded “corner drugstore” develop it, but I’m sure that doesn’t count.

It’s rather funny, now that I’m shooting digital I’m actually learning more about color film than before.  Who knew that there are photoshop color formulas to produce the effect of Velvia color film?  Until I started researching digital, I didn’t even know that something like Velvia existed!  (it’s a super color saturated film that doesn’t really look realistic, but the colors pop and look vibrant.)

Of all the photography classes in college, I choose to skip the color class.  The color machine was in the same darkroom suite as the black and white set up, so I got an up close and personal view of exactly how frustrating the thing was.  If it wasn’t broken, it was acting up.  Students were constantly having issues – we regularly heard wails of “I have critique in 3 days!” when the thing broke yet again. 

I know the basics – I watched students tweak filters until the color matched what they wanted.  I saw some wonderful large color prints produced that were spectacular – and I couldn’t personally tell the difference between the color machine and digital giclee prints.   I’m sure the color purists will disagree with me, but if I, a photographer, can’t tell the difference, can the average person?

I know it’s rather odd to show a black and white photograph to illustrate writing about color film.  That’s because it’s all I know.  Color is truly a new frontier for me.  I love experimenting with the digital and seeing what I can do – after shooting for years in the black and white mindset, it’s amazing how color can change a photograph.

This image is the companion to the first in my last post.  It’s also taken with my Kodak Brownie camera, socked onto a tripod for a long exposure of 7 minutes or so.  Believe it or not, it was taken in the middle of a snow storm – the long exposure removed the falling flakes and left the light and fluffy accumulation instead.  Proof of that is the snow in the street – it doesn’t take very long for the street to look absolutely nasty. 

I have a few rolls of medium format color languishing on my shelf that I want to test the brownie with at some point.  It’s probably expired beyond saving.  Until I work out a way to rewind the film off my sole film spool that fits, I’m stuck leaving the stuff in the box and wondering.