Monday, December 26, 2011

Tips for Winter Photography

Winter can be a great time for outdoor photography, but there are some things you need to consider that you don’t have to worry about during the rest of the year. Here are some tips to make your winter shooting successful.

1. White Balance. Most of the time the camera will be able to determine the correct white balance or color cast to apply to your photo. Snowy conditions can fool the camera and make that more difficult. Try manually setting the white balance to “sunny or daylight”, “cloudy”, or “shade” depending on the conditions. If you shoot in RAW mode you will be able to adjust the white balance later using a photo editing package.

2. Exposure. Modern digital cameras want to set the exposure so that the scene averages to a mid-gray tone. When much of your photo contains bright white snow, the camera will lower the exposure to make that white snow gray. Use spot metering and measure something other than snow or use exposure compensation to add one to two stops (EV) of light. Most cameras can do this. Check your manual for specific instructions.  Be sure to watch your tone curve to know if you are exposing correctly. A properly exposed photo with lots of snow will have a tone curve that is bunched up on the right side.

3. Flash. If you use your flash when it’s snowing the snowflakes will show up as bright white spots. You can avoid this by turning off the flash, using a tripod, and taking a long exposure. Depending on your exposure time the snow will show up as streaks or not show up at all with a very long exposure, like the photo to the right. Experiment with the shutter speed to get the effect you want.

4. Condensation. When you bring a cold camera inside a warm building or car condensation may form on the lens. If you take that camera back outside that condensation may turn to ice! You can avoid the condensation pitfalls by avoiding taking your camera between warm and cold environments. If you’re getting in and out of your car, keep the car interior temps cool. If you want to take it inside a warm place try sealing the camera and lenses in a big zip lock bag while you are still outdoors. That will keep the warm moist air away from your camera until it warms up.

5. Batteries. Cold temps can zap a camera battery. They will function better if they are kept warm. Keep your spare batteries in an inside pocket where your body heat will keep them warm until you need them. Make sure they are fully charged before heading out into the cold.

7. Shoot during “The Golden Hour” just before sunset and just after sunrise. The low angle of the sunlight will emphasis the texture in the snow on the ground.   It you shoot near noon then the snow may appear to be solid white.

6. Fingers. Pressing little buttons on your camera can be nearly impossible when it’s very cold. Either your fingers are numb and you can’t feel the buttons or your bulky gloves make it very difficult to hit the right button. You might try special gloves that allow you to stick your thumb and forefinger
out of the gloves to shoot then pull them back in. A couple examples are Pho-Tog Gloves or Shooting Gloves. Check out the Adorama buying guide.

Of course, you need to be safe while out shooting in the winter.   Make sure you layer up to stay warm.   You'll want to have good water proof footwear to keep your feet dry and warm.  Last year I purchased at set of Yaktrak to add to my boots when hiking on snow or ice.   Winter is also a great time to use hiking poles for extra stability.

With a little preparation you can have a great time photographing in the winter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

eBook Review - Rabari - Encounters With The Nomadic Tribe

If you read my earlier post about my photography library you know I love books about photography.  I have books about composition, technical aspects, printing, Lightroom, HDR, and many others.   Recently I've been buying electronic eBooks.   These books are typically not printed in hard copy format but are books in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format that can be read on a PC, MAC, iPAD, or Smart Phone.  It makes taking your library along with you on a photo outing much easier.  Because there is no printing or distribution costs these eBooks are typically cheaper than hard copy books.   Most are also shorter than normal books.  I'm really not sure why.

This week I got a copy of Rabari - Encounters With the Nomadic Tribe by Mitchell Kanashkevich.  This is part of The Insider Series on Travel Documentary Photography by LightStalking.   The title suggests it is a travel book but it's really a book about photography that just happens to use the author's four month long travels in this region of India for the examples. 

Here's the table of contents for the book:

After a brief introduction to the project, the equipment (surprisingly affordable) and the work flow, the author goes into details about each of 10 different photos from the project.  For each photo, he discusses background information, objectives for that particular photo, the light, the moment and/or pose, the composition, the "Biggest Challenge" and how me managed it, and the what/why of post processing.

The author provides great insight into what was going through his mind when he was working on that particular photo. Reading these well written descriptions is like being with him on the photo shoot and having him tell you what he's doing and why.

One thing I was surprised to learn was how little equipment he used.   He didn't have high end cameras, lenses, or elaborate artificial lights.   Instead he relied on a 5-in-one reflector for his lighting.   He describes the conditions he was shooting in and includes diagrams showing where the subject, light source and camera were located.

I found his description of the biggest challenge with each situation and how he overcame it to be instructive.  While I may never run into that exact challenge, his approach to solving the problems was educational as I learned things I will be able to apply later.

He uses a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to edit his photos.   In the book he talks about what adjustments he made to the photo and how he made the adjustments.  The book is more about the photography and is less about post-processing. He includes before and after versions of the photo.

Reading this book was entertaining and informative.  The photos reached out and grabbed me right off.   You can see why Mitchell Kanashkevic is a successful  travel and documentary photographer.  I recommend this book for amateurs as well as professional photographers.

Rabari – Encounters With the Nomadic Tribe is available for download for the special Christmas release price of $19.95 when you apply the special launch discount code “HAPPYXMAS” until Dec 25th.  Go online and buy a copy.   There's no waiting for shipment so you can start reading right away.