Winter scenes at Niagara Falls

While I am not a fan of winter I do appreciate that snow and ice storms can often create unique photographic opportunities. During a recent visit to Niagara Falls I spent about an hour capturing a few winter scenes and images.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. There is also “A lesson reinforced…” at the end of the article.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Since I usually see landscape images initially in my mind as geometric shapes and angles I started off with a few photographs that incorporated various man-made structures as they have strong, bold lines. I captured the image above at a fairly wide angle and used the walkway and railings to accentuate a feeling of distance, as well as act as a leading line.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 13mm, efov 34mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 13mm, efov 34mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Angles always intrigue me and I can often find a ‘magic 7‘ to use in my compositions.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 30mm, efov 81mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 30mm, efov 81mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-160, -0.7 step

At other times I use structures to act as a ‘bottom band‘ to help create perspective and add depth to an image.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 44mm, efov 119mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 44mm, efov 119mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step

I also love to find elements that can help create alignment and a feeling of order in an image like the row of lights in the above photograph.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 61mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 23m, efov 61mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Looking for ways to create a ‘corner exit‘ can often help the eye flow of an image as with the ice-covered trees in the above photograph. You’ll also notice a couple of geometric shapes in the image: part of an oval and a triangle, separated by the ice-covered trees.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 32mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Corner exits can often be created by using a man-made structure like the railing wall seen in the image above.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 74mm, efov 198mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 74mm, efov 198mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Winter is the time of year when nature and man-made objects are most often combined.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Somehow even bare tree branches become far more photogenic when they are covered with ice and can act as a pleasing backdrop.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 72mm, efov 194mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 72mm, efov 194mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-160, -0.7 step

I was very fortunate to see a light shedding its ice skin almost like a lizard or snake sheds their skins as they grow.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 44mm, efov 119mm, f/8, 1/4000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 44mm, efov 119mm, f/8, 1/4000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Knowing that this sight was time limited by the strong sunlight I dared to shoot the light standard backlit, challenging the dynamic range of my Nikon 1 V2’s CX sensor.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 18mm, efov 48mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 18mm, efov 48mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Capturing images with a lot of snow in bright sunlight presents a challenge in terms of exposure, and if you look at the EXIF data you’ll see that I used -0.7 exposure compensation to do my best to try to hold onto highlights.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 31mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm, efov 31mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Rather than use matrix metering which would be quite common for landscape images, I used centre-weighted average metering instead as this gave me a bit more control over exposure.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 34mm, efov 90mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 34mm, efov 90mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Whenever I’m out with a camera at some point I invariably take a ‘less is more’ approach with my images, finding interest and beauty in details.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, efov 270mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-160, -0.7 step

There is something special in capturing transient moments like ice melting on the trunk of a tree…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 68mm, efov 182mm, f/8, 1/4000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 68mm, efov 182mm, f/8, 1/4000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Or finding unique patterns that will soon disappear.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22mm, efov 58mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22mm, efov 58mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Framing ice against a clear blue sky makes it look crisper…colder.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 80mm, efov 217mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 80mm, efov 217mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

And, ice beginning to release its grasp can create a feeling of anticipation…on branches…

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 80mm, efov 217mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 80mm, efov 217mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-160, -0.7 step

as well as on seed pods.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 37mm, efov 99mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 37mm, efov 99mm, f/8, 1/3200, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Even footprints in the snow can tell an interesting story…even if they are ones that reader Ray Miller and I made an hour earlier.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 46mm, efov 124mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO-160, -0.7 step
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 46mm, efov 124mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO-160, -0.7 step

Hopefully we’ll soon experience warmer temperatures and the bursting forth of life that accompanies spring…so we can sit back and take it all in.

A lesson reinforced…
As regular readers know I often try using my camera gear in different ways just to see what will happen. That was the case with the images in this article. I purposely chose to shoot using -0.7 exposure compensation and centre-weighted metering in these high contrast situations as a test. While the results were instructive they fell far short of expectations in terms of image quality. As photographers we all learn the lesson that it is always best to get an image right in camera, rather than having to deal with issues in post. While my experiment did end up holding highlight details it came at the expense of me needing to do much more work in post which contributed to many of the images having artifacts in them. The lesson for me is pretty clear…I won’t do this again! All of the landscape images with sky details would have been far better if I would have reached into my camera bag and used graduated neutral density filters to deal with the high contrast lighting.

Perhaps you’re a novice or amateur photographer wanting to improve your skills and understanding of photography and looking for a customized solution. Give us a call or pop us an email to learn about our photography coaching programs.

If you like this article and my web site, you can support my efforts when you purchase anything from B&H by using the Thomas Stirr affiliate link. Even the smallest purchases will help support this web site.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store by using promotion code
AMPLIS52015TS.

Please help protect the Copyright of photographers and writers by boycotting and calling out websites that illegally duplicate content on their sites. If you see this entire article, or any images from it, duplicated somewhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.

We do have a great working relationship with the folks at mirrorlessons.com, and anything you see linked to us from there is legitimate.

Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

10 thoughts on “Winter scenes at Niagara Falls”

  1. Very good set of images, the kind I like (bright blue sky and contrasty scenes). And your pp skills with Nikon 1 is better than most I’ve seen elsewhere

    Maybe it’s normal (due to server storage / upload time) but I noticed quiet a bit of jpeg artifacts in the full size images. If file size is not a main limitation may I suggest less compression ?

    1. Hi Bertrand,
      Thanks very much for the comment! We are already at the maximum in terms of server restrictions..although I don’t think this is a significant contributor to the artifacts seen in the images. I’ve added some new copy towards the end of the article “A lesson reinforced…” that comments on the artifacts in some of the images. Thanks again for highlighting this issue as I originally forgot to point this out in my article.
      Tom

  2. I agree, some would be better in black and white, but overall I think it is a good series, especially as you point out the varied compositional elements used.

    I notice of late you are using the V2 more frequently than the V3. Any reason?

    As always, enjoy your blog!

    1. Hi NMDrew,

      Glad you enjoyed the article! Actually I have never owned a Nikon 1 V3. Nikon Canada did provide me with a review sample for a few weeks, but that camera body was returned to them a long time ago. Any articles on my blog that feature images taken with a V3 were done with that review sample camera. I own three Nikon 1 V2’s, a J4 with WP-N3 housing, and a wide selection of 1 Nikon lenses.

      I appreciate that many photographers enjoy working with black & white…I’m not one of them though. I’m not sure if my strong aversion to black & white goes way back to my newspaper days or not…but it is something that I have never liked in the slightest. Different strokes for different folks I suppose!

      Tom

  3. Hi Thomas, Beautiful compositions. But in a few photos, something seems to be missing _ I cant pinpoint it exactly. I am of the personal view that some of the photos would have looked better in Black and white – for instance when you created a corner exit – the photo would have come better in B/W (my personal opinion of course). The magic 7 that you created is good. I liked the ice falling off the light – nice image. Maybe its because of the dreary weather , but the vibrance and punch that I usually associate with your photos seemed missing in this post – no doubt these are sharp and well composed images, excuse my saying so – this is purely a personal opinion from an amateur perspective. Can I also know why you have shot all images at f/8 and why not at f/5.6? And I would like your take on matrix vs centre weighted metering and also how exposure compensation of -0.7 helped?

    1. Thanks very much for your comment Srikanth!

      Some of the images did need more work and I must confess that I originally rushed them a bit due to some pressing client deadlines. I took some time this morning and did a bit more work to them and reposted some replacement images.

      My choice of f/8 for my aperture was done for a few reasons: 1) I’ve been experimenting quite a bit using that aperture and this was another opportunity to do that, 2) the lighting was so bright that even at f/8 my shutter speed was at 1/3200. For some images if I would have shot them at f/5.6 it would have bumped my shutter speed beyond the 1/4000 limit of the mechanical shutter in my V2. I could have shot single frames using 15fps and used the electronic shutter on my V2 as I then could have then shot at up to 1/16,000, 3) I had a lot to cram into my afternoon and all of the images in this article were shot in less than an hour. f/8 was a good compromise setting that allowed me to capture a lot of images in a compressed time frame.

      Using exposure compensation allows a photographer to under expose or over expose an image without adjusting their base exposure settings. Using -0.7 will underexpose an image which can help hold highlight details in high contrast situations. Matrix metering uses the entire scene to determine exposure, while centre weighted only uses a portion of the sensor. I used centre weighted to give me more control of what part of the scene that I wanted to use for exposure. The sensor in my V2 only has about 10.8EV of dynamic range so shooting under bright sunlight with a lot of reflection from the snow etc. really challenges the sensor. I used these settings to try to limit the amount of highlight clipping in the images.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *