“How To” Series: Winter Photography

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Update: December 18, 2015. This series was revised and expanded last winter (January through March 2015) and I will update it again beginning in January 2016, but for some of you winter is NOW, so I am re-posting this set of links so you have them now.

Update: January 9, 2016. As of today five of articles have been revised and updated from last year’s versions. I have also written several new articles that are related to this series and included links. Over the next few days I will revise and update the rest of the articles. Stay tuned.

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began my series of articles on winter photography. This year I revised three prior articles and added six new ones. They will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So read the articles, get out there, have fun, and create some stunning images!

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Photo Shoot: Using a Halo Softbox with a Yongnuo Radio Controlled Flash System

Kristina

Kristina. Sunlight coming from the right. Halo softbox with Yongnuo speedlite providing light from the left.

After testing a Bob Davis 45 inch Halo Softbox and Yongnuo YN600EX-RT radio flash on my most available model (my dog), I needed to test it out on a real model. Opportunity called in the form of a message from Kristina, a professional model based in Los Angeles (and an absolute delight to work with). She would be in Ohio for Thanksgiving and she wanted to schedule a shoot. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, but fortunately for us we had one day to shoot after she arrived and before I left.

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The Best Incident Light Meters

Analog Incident Light Meter, Gossen Luna-Pro F. Photo copyright Jim Doty Jr

Incident Light Meter. Photo © Jim Doty Jr.

There’s no question that in some complex metering situations, an incident light meter can be quicker, faster, simpler, and more accurate than the meter in your camera. Many incident light meters can also measure light from an electronic flash, a huge bonus when you are using a flash in the manual mode.

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Using the Histogram to Check Studio Flash Exposures

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

When using studio flash units, usually the best way to check your exposures is to use an incident light meter which is capable of metering flash exposures. But what if you don’t have an incident flash meter? Or what if you have a subject that absorbs a lot of light? Or a subject that reflects a lot more light than your typical photographic subject? You can double check your exposure settings by using the histogram on your camera. FYI: Do not trust the LCD image on the back of your camera to judge your exposures.

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Winter Photography Series

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Last Light on El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

In addition to all of the usual photographic challenges, winter provides some extra complications, especially in terms of metering. So I began my series of articles on winter photography. This year I revised three prior articles and added six new ones. They will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography.  So read the articles, get out there, have fun, and create some stunning images!

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Exposure Warning: Turn On The Blinkies

Camera LCD Display With the "Blinkies" Turned On

Camera LCD Display With The Blinkies Turned On. Washed out pixels in the photo are flashing white and black.

Some camera’s come with a highlight overexposure warning, commonly called “the blinkies”. If you have overexposed, blown out pixels, those pixels in your image will flash white and black. A quick look at the LCD image will tell you if part of your image has white, washed out, featureless pixels. If your camera has a highlight overexposure warning, I suggest you turn it on. If you see the blinkies and you don’t want washed out pixels, tone down your exposure until the blinkies go away.

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Testing Your Camera’s Snow Exposure Latitude

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers, Prince William Sound, Alaska

Exposure compensation is one of the most important keys to good exposures, great images, and the best colors your digital camera is capable of producing. Knowing your camera’s snow exposure latitude is one of the keys to using exposure compensation in a winter scene. It is different for every camera model. You won’t find it in your camera’s manual but it is easy to determine with a simple test.

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Metering Nighttime Winter Scenes

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Twilight, Rocky Mountain National Park. Sirius, Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, the Hyades star cluster, and the Pleiades star cluster are all visible in the fading light. Click for a larger version.

You can photograph the night sky year around, but winter brings an added bonus: SNOW! Instead of the black, silhouetted skyline you get most of the year, in winter you have the possibility of including the highly reflective snow. That is why for many photographers winter is their favorite time of year to photograph the night sky.

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part Two

Cougar

Cougar

Most wildlife are medium to dark in tone, making them a challenge to meter properly in the bright, white tones of winter. If you trust your camera’s auto exposure modes, the odds are good you won’t get the best exposure. If you switch over to manual exposure and make the right decisions, you can get great exposures and better quality photos (more about that later).

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Metering Wildlife in the Snow, Part One

Elk in the Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in the Snow, Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Metering dark toned wildlife in the snow is a major exposure challenge. It is usually best to avoid large “burned out” areas (washed out, featureless white) in a nature or landscape photograph, but with properly exposed snow, the wildlife can be so dark as to lose all texture. On other hand, metering for the wildlife can burn out the snow.

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Metering Daytime Winter Scenes

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Mount Hunter from a Bush Plane. Denali National Park. Alaska.

Metering for scenes with a lot of snow can be tricky since the bright snow fools the camera meter. I see a lot of winter photos with gray snow, which means the camera meter did exactly what it was designed to do and the camera owner didn’t know how to use exposure compensation. The solution is quite simple provided you know what to do.

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POTD: “A Moment of Discovery”

A Moment of Discovery

A Moment of Discovery

When you are photographing very active children around 2 1/2 years of age, it is often best to just follow them around and let them do their thing, rather than try to “pose” them. I followed my grandson around my backyard for almost an hour, taking pictures and hoping to get just the right image. To get the best point of view I needed to be on my knees. Spending that much time on your knees is hard on the knees, but what else can you do? When you photograph children you need to be down on their level.

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A Photography How To: “Jewel Box Lighting” at the Franklin Park Conservatory

Bruce Munro: Light. Franklin Park Conservatory

Bruce Munro: Light. Franklin Park Conservatory

Jewel Box Lighting is the art of combining lights, lighted buildings, or lighted objects with a deep blue evening sky. It is a great way to do photography and the exhibit this week at the Franklin Park Observatory is a wonderful opportunity to practice this technique and come away with some unique and memorable images.

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