With blizzard warnings and snow falling, photographers shouldn’t shy away from taking amazing photographs during the winter months. Guest Blogger, Christopher O’Donnell, share his winter landscape expertise with our members.
A snow-covered scene is a favored subject for most photographers, not just those who focus on the landscape. Snow has the ability to add interest and texture to any environment, and the opportunities to expand your creative horizons are endless. In particular, falling snow or windblown scenes create a surreal environment that is not only visually attractive, but can evoke a deeper, emotional response to your photography.
Black and white photographers are particularly fond of snow, as it expands the tonal range and contrast to a landscape that lacks any variation until the spring bloom. The smooth transition of tones across the curvature of snow can transform the topography, allowing you to capture a landscape under a stunning blanket of white.
However, the unique conditions that snow provides also comes with their own workflows in order to capture a scene in the manner you intend – in particular, two challenges that you are often met with are obtaining the proper exposure for snow, and how to capture snow as it falls.
Whether you choose to process your image as a black and white or in color, snow doesn’t look quite right with many shades of gray. This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate all of the darker tones – in fact, shadows can add depth and texture, which helps define the variations and curves across your scene. However, some values of your image should be near to pure white (without being overexposed) to act as a reference point. If your entire snowscape is just varying levels of gray, then your snow will appear “dirty” and underexposed, which is most likely not your goal.
An easy way to judge your exposure in the field is to look at your histogram. Overall, are your tones gathererd to the left (underexposed) or to the right (overexposed)? Shooting “to the right” is not only preferred in most situations, but will put you in a prime position to fine-tune your exposure in post process, if neccesary.
By comparing the exposures between these two frames – more specifically, the histogram – you can see that the longer shutter speed allowed for more light to hit the sensor, thus eliminating the “grayness” of the snow that is seen in the shorter exposure to the right. The snow appears more natural and pristine when shot at 1/400ths, and the blocked shadows (underexposed areas) are now eliminated.
The histograms of each image can tell you much about your exposure, and is a fantastic tool that I use often in the field. You’re not always able to tell for certain how correct your exposure is just by looking at your LCD, and your histogram will let you know how well your image is exposed without any guesswork.
You’ll notice that in the properly-exposed photo to the left, the tones are gathered to the right, which is a desired result when your frame consists of mostly snow. Opposite this image is the underexposed version shot at 1/1600ths, and the histogram reflects this well with most tones gathered on the left side.
Of course, the distribution of your tones is entirely dependent on your intent, and also the content of your image. This scene is filled with snow, so it makes sense that most tones are to the right. However, if you’re shooting a snow scene with other elements – such as buildings, tree lines, or water – than you’ll need to read your histogram critically to avoid over or under exposure.
At times, you’ll come across a snow scene that is impossible to expose correctly across the frame – most often when the sky is present in your composition. You’ll have one of two results – properly exposed snow with other elements over and/or underexposed, or snow that is not exposed properly with the remainder of your scene looking accurate.
This is an unfortunate limitation of your camera – not being able to combine different shutter speeds within the same frame – but can be conquered if you know the proper workflow. Depending on your scene, you can either exposure blend or use GND filters to correct your exposure throughout your composition. Click here to read more about either of these methods.
Much like photographing any moving object, falling snow requires that you use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. The exact shutter speed can change greatly depending on many aspects, both with your camera and the elements in your frame – the amount of available light, speed of snowfall, and your combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all have a part to play in both capturing flakes as they fall while having your image being properly exposed. It’s a delicate balance, and will take some adjustments in the field, but is attainable with practice and knowledge of how changes in your manual settings can affect both your exposure and how your scene is rendered.
A common issue that many photographers encounter when photographing the snowfall is a lack of available light. Since snowfall usually occurs during overcast, the amount of natural light you have is limited, which can ultimately affect your shutter speed. If you can’t obtain a fast enough shutter speed, your flakes will appear as streaks across your frame – or if your shutter is very slow, the flakes won’t register at all.
If you find yourself challenged to freeze motion and also have your image properly exposed, there are several changes you can perform – widen your aperture, increase your ISO, or try a shorter focal length. All of these steps will gradually increase the amount of light that enters your camera, thus allowing you to capture the falling snow
For the images above, I used a 300mm prime lens and focused on the tree, which was about 50 feet away. I took some test shots with an ISO of 100, but none of the shutter speeds were fast enough to freeze the action, which prompted me to increase my ISO to 800 for this series.
As you can see, the slow shutter speed of 1/40th that I obtained with an aperture of f/16 was not fast enough to freeze the flakes as they fell. Instead of increasing my ISO further – which I could have done without much noticeable noise – I decided to widen my aperture. In this side-by-side comparison, you can see that as my aperture widened, the snowfall looks quite different as my shutter speed increased. If I were to choose one image to use, I would select the f/5.6 aperture – it’s fast enough to render the falling snow without streaks, but my depth of field isn’t too shallow where I lose many flakes as they are thrown out of focus.
However, there’s more to photographing falling snow than finding the best shutter speed. Your chosen focal length has much to do with how your snowflakes will appear – most importantly, their size and layers. Longer focal lengths compact your distances and increase the size of falling flakes, which will give you varying degrees of snowflake weight, and will also produce a layered effect.
Also note that the longer your focal length is, the more shallow your depth of field will become for a given aperture. In the image above, I used a focal length of 300mm set at f/4, which gave me multiple layers of snowflakes at various sizes – yet many are out of focus and transformed into soft bokeh, which adds texture and depth. By using a longer focal length, you can create multiple layers of snowflake interest by flattening the distances – even during a very light snowfall.
For further creativity that you can apply to your snowscape, read our tips on landscape compositions right here.
By knowing how to achieve the results you want, you can avoid much frustration in the field, allowing you to focus on the creative aspect of photographing snow.
It’s January and for a lot of photographers they are in the midst of wedding bookings and wedding shows. We recently caught up with AdoramaPix Ambassador Erin Gilmore of Erin Gilmore Photography who consistently wins awards for her wedding booth designs. This year the theme was “The Things we Love” which included photo books and images from AdoramaPix. Erin’s booth showcased black chalk walls with her artwork displayed.
Your Best Shot 2014 Contest
Contest Details – Please Read Carefully!
How to enter:
1. Grand Prize (1 winner): Estimated Value: $1500.00
2. Top 100 Picks : (100 winners) Estimated Value: $25.00
- Each of the top 100 Picks listed on Facebook will receive an 8×10 Metal Print.
3. NEW : The three images with the most likes from the top 100: (3 winners) Estimated Value: $134.95
- The top 3 with the most Facebook “likes” from the top 100 will win a 20×30 Metal Print
4. Top 12 Runner Ups : (12 winners) Estimated Value: $28.00
-Each of the 12 Runner Ups listed on Facebook will receive a free 8×8 – 14 page hardcover photo book with the winning entries displayed.
All winners will be notified by email.
Dates to Know:
The Deadline: February 12, 2015
A team of Adoramapix Judges will then choose the top 100 images based on technical and artistic ability and will post to Facebook.
The sponsor will break them down into categories, landscape, portrait, etc and will take the even percentages out of each category. Judges reserve the right to place the entry in the appropriate category.
The Vote: February 2015
The top 100 will be posted to Facebook. The three images with the most “likes” will receive a free 20×30 metal print. This vote has no bearing on the actual Grand Prize Winner.
The top 25 images will be posted on the Adoramapix Blog as chosen by a panel of 3 judges. Adoramapix members will then pick their favorites from the 25 images posted. The top 12 images that receive the most votes will be awarded the Best of 2014 8x8” -14 page Adoramapix Photo Book.
The Winner Announced: March 2015
A team of Adoramapix Judges will choose the Grand Prize Winner out of the top 12 Best of 2014 winners.
The Winner will be announced via our Blog first, followed by Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and a mail out.
Official Rules: All 2015 General Adoramapix Contest Rules Apply
*You will be disqualified if you enter more than one image. If you are not a fan of these contests, please don’t participate. We’ll continue to try to find new contests and new prizes that will make it fun and interesting to be a part of the Adoramapix community. Thank you for your support.
1. Can I submit an image with my copyright on it?
Absolutely, if you make it to the top 12 we will ask you to submit a copyright image free 300 dpi image suitable for print for the winning 8×8 -12 page photo book.
2.What do you do with our images?
This is our fourth year running the contest. We take great strides to protect the images you submit to us. After each year, we delete all images from the mailbox. We print the top 12 images. However, please be aware this contest is run on social media sites as well as our blog. (See point #20 on 2015 Rules and Regulations) We suggest to only post a low – 72 dpi watermarked image to Facebook.
3. Why won’t you confirm entries?
We have over 3k entries each year to this contest. There are a number of reasons we can not guarantee your entry.
1. You forgot to attach an image
2. You entered more than once with different images
3. If you share a link to your image and the link does not work
4. You submitted an image that is in direct violation of #10 of 2015 Rules and Regulations.
We do not verify for the simple reason that it would not be fair to allow people to resubmit, if they did not follow the rules. It is unfair to those who did follow the contest rules.
4. My image was better than that squirrel image, why did you pick that one?
This contest is initially broken down into about a dozen categories to reach the top 100. For example, portraits, landscape, wildlife, etc. Certain categories have a higher percentage of people who submit. So although you may have entered a landscape picture and did not make it, but a macro of a tip of a pencil did, it’s because you were competing with everyone in the landscape category – not the macro. After the first initial 100 are announced – then they are no longer in categories. It’s the best shot takes the prize.
5. Are panoramics, HDR and composite shots permitted?
Yes, however, the grand prize winners from the previous years have all been from one frame. (we verify it) We do not draw the line on how much photoshop, stacking, stitching there is in the photo.
6. I’m not on Facebook – can I still enter.
Whether you worked on a 365 day project or your family adventures for 2014, now is the time to organize your memories from the last year. From photo books, to calendars to gallery walls we have you covered.
A. Photo Books
1. 365 / 52 Projects
Congratulations – you did it! You took a picture every day in the year 2014 with Project 365. You were determined, you were motivated, you were disciplined with your craft. Whew — you’re done. What? No! Now it’s time to preserve your memories with an AdoramaPix photo book. Yes, we do have a template that would be perfect for your project. Within our PixPublisher, you will find a lot of different themes. The best theme to suit this project is a 76 page Collage. The theme is perfect because it can host all of your images from your project. It has different sizes and orientations to suit whatever subjects you covered last year. All of that hard work and discipline can be showcased for future generations.
2. Year in Review
Put your holiday memories or 2014 milestones into a stunning photo book you can look back on in years to come. Whether it’s your family’s high-lights or watching your little ones grow, don’t let those images sit on your hard drive or phone – give them a home in 2015. Creating a year in review photo book may be a bit daunting but there are some easy steps to keep focused. Start with the right photo book; make sure to pick one that will handle a year of images. Next, pick a vision or a road map for your book. Want to do month by month or just hi-light the seasons? Whatever road you take, make sure to keep consistent with your idea throughout the book.
B. Calendar Ideas
Back in the day, you’d be happy just receiving your free calendar from the local grocery store. My how times have changed. Now, you can be just as crafty and passionate about the design, color and images as a photo book.
We have a few ideas to help you make the best of your 2014 memories into 2015 calendars.
1. Children Through the Seasons
Most of us have captured our children throughout the year. Now is the time to get those images off the phone and computer to put into a beautiful calendar. It’s ok, if you don’t have every season captured to match the month. It’s more about seeing their world from their eyes in 2014. In 2015, try capturing your children in each month as a portrait. There are some things as parents that we do, take the kids on vacation, take the kids to the pumpkin patch etc. Why not take 5 minutes out of each these adventures to set up a quick portrait? It doesn’t have to be perfect but it should be representative of the month. Once you make a practice of it, you’ll find it easy to make a calendar each year.
Did you know you can directly upload your images from your Instagram account? You can! What an easy way to make a calendar! Upload your Instagram images and choose your favorites to showcase throughout the year. This will keep you inspired throughout 2015 and it documents your art from 2014!
C. Gallery Walls
Take a collection of your photos and turn them into pieces of art. Throughout the year, we have shown you ideas on how to group images together for the most impact. If you have a big space to fill, instead of doing one larger images, consider making a gallery of like photos. It can be just as effective and dramatic. Plus, if you don’t want to bother with the framing, remember our metal, acrylic and canvas prints come ready to hang.
We hope these ideas will inspire you to get serious about not letting your memories stay as jpegs. Give them a life and a home in 2015. #longliveprints
Whether you are a professional, amateur or hobbyist photographer, one thing is for certain you’ll want to take care of your digital files and back them up. We wanted to write a blog post about 5 items you need to do to back up your images. However, there are so many different routes and not every tip will be applicable for everyone. So instead, we asked five of our members on how they archive their photos and why it works for them. All of them agree, Don’t Delay, back it up Today!
1. Roger Vaughn of Roger Vaughn Photography (online backup)
As a freelance sports photographer shooting local high school and DIII college teams, I shoot a lot of images every week. I save my original full resolution images from the current sports season to an on site image server that I built myself containing a total of 16TB of hard drive space. I also keep the best images from the previous years sports season on my image server as well.
All of my images back up automatically to Google Drive and Google+ Photos. All Google accounts come with 15GB of free storage and you can increase the size of your Google Drive storage in incremental amounts at affordable monthly costs. One TB of storage space is only $9.99 a month. The nice thing about Google Drive is that any image smaller than 2048 pixels on the longest side does not count toward your Google Drive storage allotment, so in theory the amount of images you can backup is limitless if the image size is kept under 2048 pixels. Google+ Photos backup app lets you set that option in the settings.
Google Drive is handy for me. Since I travel a lot I never have to worry about access to my image archive when a sports editor needs an image. My archive is available wherever I have an internet connection by just accessing my Google account.
2. Ernesto of EJ Photo (external hard drive)
Last year, out of the blue, my 2year old external drive, decided to stop working, it didn’t want to power up, nothing was moving in/out of it. After much rendering of hair and gnashing of teeth, I embarked on a new back up process; I now have 2 WD Passports, and after a major shoot/edit/film scan I back up my photo files to one and take that drive to my office and swap it for the one there. This way if something happens to my picture drive I have a back up in the office and if something happens to the one in the office, I have one at home (not as up to date but still). I also don’t delete my memory cards right away in case some of the files are corrupted in the transfer or something does happen to one of the backups. Yes, it is very redundant and a bit of a pain but I am not getting burnt again (that easily anyways). (Ernesto archives jpegs only)
3. Saul Blumenthal of Saul Blumenthal
The goal of my backup scheme is to have my personal photo collection stored on several hard drives, in multiple locations. It is not important that I be able to access any particular photo from anywhere.
I have a 1.5TB external drive always connected to my Mac, that serves as my “master” archive; I then have two internal 1.5TB drives and a USB enclosure. At any given moment, one of these drives is inside the enclosure and mounted on my computer and the other is in a safe deposit box at the bank. Whenever I update the master drive, I use the utility SuperDuper! to mirror the drive inside the enclosure. Every two weeks (usually a Saturday morning) — occasionally longer if life gets in the way or if I haven’t been shooting much — I go to the bank with the internal drive from the enclosure and swap it with the drive in the safe deposit box. When I get home I mount the drive in the enclosure and I sync it up with the master drive.
If either of the internal drives fails — as happened once — I can get a new drive and restore it from the master drive. If the master drive fails, I can get a new one and restore it from the internal drive. If both drives in my home fail or are destroyed, I have lost at most my photos from the past two weeks.
After 10 years and 50,000 photos, I have only half-filled the drives. When I do get close to filling the drives, I can add extra drives to the mix or start using larger drives.
Of course my ultimate backups are the many photo books I have designed and had printed over the years.
4. Eric Arnold of Eric Arnold Photography
5. Ross Sieber of NRS Media Services
I’m among the part time professional crowd, and my formal education and training is in the IT field. Since I am from the IT field, I tend to over-build and take precautions based on some of the worst cases I’ve read about and of course we all learn from our mistakes. I’ve been building my own systems for a long time and in fact have only moved away from a self-hosted platform to Photoshelter, Zenfolio and Flickr within the last 2-3 years. I have been through every variation of single drives, RAID, including various brands of drives and controllers. I’ve found that things are usually stable when left alone, which of course doesn’t account for mistakes or hardware failures, and consolidation among manufacturers hasn’t always led to better products. While I was managing my own sites and servers, I was trading off external drives for remote backups, but since everything from file sizes to memory cards and hard drives has grown this wasn’t going to cut it, not to mention the time and money to ship drives or actually drive out to the data center to make the swap. I started using the Synology NAS for backups a few years ago, and BackBlaze for offsite backups. RAID card problems on the most recent upgrade attempt led me to purchase the expansion chassis for the Synology NAS sp essentially I have 2 identical volumes, but primary storage and backups are in different physical devices , and I’m still utilizing BackBlaze for my offsite backups. I also run BackBlaze on my laptop so I can at least get part of a project backed up (we won’t get into the quality of hotel Wi-Fi, even in NYC) and if I’m working an event over multiple days, especially where I know I’ll be formatting and overwriting cards each day, I’ll make sure I am backing up to one or more external drive just in case something would happen to the laptop, the I fill the laptop drive or something else goes wrong. It sounds complicated and slightly paranoid, but accidents happen, equipment fails and you can’t afford to waste time when everyone wants instant results. ( Ross keeps everything edited and unedited, whatever the format.)
What other tips do you have to archive your photos?