|Image at dawn along the coast of Casco Bay, Maine. The ice here is reflecting so many nice colors of the environment, including the warmth of the area around the sun, as well as the blue of the sky. This morning was very cold, so the warmth of the sun was very limited in area, which meant a lot of blue in the ice.|
Growing up as a photographer in Minnesota meant dealing with winter. You may have heard the old joke that Minnesota has four seasons: pre-winter, winter, post-winter and springsummerfall (sic). Regardless of the truth or exaggeration of that idea, Minnesota has a long winter, and if you were going to be a nature photographer there, you had to deal with winter photography. No hibernating cameras allowed!
I no longer live in Minnesota and now enjoy the gentle winters of Southern California, but I still love to photograph in ice and snow. In fact, I have some great opportunities to do just that, even in Southern California, with local mountains that reach 10,000 feet and can have six feet of snow.
These two photos of central Minnesota woods show the big challenge of using your camera’s systems totally automatically without making deliberate choices for the conditions. The first is underexposed and shows the blue cast of AWB; the snow is gray, not white, and the image looks dingy and dull. In the second image, the right exposure and WB make a big difference.
My earlier years in Minnesota taught me the hard way how to photograph in the snow and cold. You learn quickly how to deal with cold cameras at 20 below while standing beside Lake Superior or how to deal with blowing snow when kneeling at the edge of a snowdrift with 40 mph winds blowing the snow right at your face.
Light changes in winter. When the sun is out, light can be great through the whole day because the sun is always low! Even at noon, you can get great shadows, dimensional shapes and strong textures to work with.
When the sun is out, light can be wonderfully dramatic, but it can be very harsh, as well. Cloudy days can also be beneficial because they cut the contrast of the light so you can see detail throughout a scene, from snow to tree trunks. Which light is best all depends on your subject and your intention for the image.
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