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.
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.
Angles always intrigue me and I can often find a ‘magic 7‘ to use in my compositions.
At other times I use structures to act as a ‘bottom band‘ to help create perspective and add depth to an image.
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.
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.
Corner exits can often be created by using a man-made structure like the railing wall seen in the image above.
Winter is the time of year when nature and man-made objects are most often combined.
Somehow even bare tree branches become far more photogenic when they are covered with ice and can act as a pleasing backdrop.
I was very fortunate to see a light shedding its ice skin almost like a lizard or snake sheds their skins as they grow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is something special in capturing transient moments like ice melting on the trunk of a tree…
Or finding unique patterns that will soon disappear.
Framing ice against a clear blue sky makes it look crisper…colder.
And, ice beginning to release its grasp can create a feeling of anticipation…on branches…
as well as on seed pods.
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.
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.
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