“How beautiful it was, falling so silently, all day long, all night long, on the mountains, on the meadows, on the roofs of the living, on the graves of the dead!” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A slight winter breeze blows a reed up against a tree at Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol, Indiana. (Photo By Mark A. Shephard)

There is something spiritual that attracts photographers to snow.

Maybe it’s the simplistic and stark beauty that exists in its wake, or maybe it is the relationship between the photographer’s spiritual vision quest and the landscape that is being explored.

Whether photographers decide to aesthetically visualize snow-covered landscapes in black and white or color, there are certain things we should remember when we head out to make beautiful snow photographs.

1.) Make sure that you have fully charged batteries for your cameras. Extreme cold wears down battery power quickly.

2.) Find a pair of gloves that makes it easy for you to make camera adjustments with dexterity and quickness.

3.) Keep in mind that winter means that there is not as much sunlight, so when it is gray and overcast you may want to visualize monochromatically (or try to picture how things will look in black and white).

A branch flows down a reflective Elkhart River along the old Sauk Trail in Elkhart, Indiana, in December 2005. (Photo By Mark A. Shephard)

4.) When there is sunshine and beautiful new snow, you will want to take advantage of the golden hours (up to two hours after sunrise, and two hours before sunset), as this is when you will make some of your best color landscapes. In Photoshop you will be able further bring to life the contrast between the warm tones of the sun’s light, and the cool tones of the snow and ice.

5.) It is best not to use your camera’s automatic exposure settings (unless your digital compact camera has a snow landscape setting) because on many occasions snow is highly reflective and very bright, and if you use an automatic setting your camera’s metering system will average all the values from the scene and create a middle-gray exposure, thus underexposing the image and making it very murky looking. There is an old saying in photography that one should “expose for the shadows and print for the highlights.” This means that you want to keep as much detail in the shadows and highlights as possible. I would highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the manual exposure techniques of Ansel Adams, a famous landscape photographer who created what he called the Zone System. Once you understand the Zone System, and how to place a scene’s tonal values where you would like them to fall, your photographic exposure knowledge will improve by leaps and bounds.

A photographer walks along Lake Michigan looking for a vantage point to photograph a lighthouse and sunset at Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph, Michigan. (Photo by Mark A. Shephard)


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