One Photographer and Nine Outdoor/Travel Writers Pick the Best Winter National Parks

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

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

I am planning a winter photography trip to some U.S. national parks, some of which I haven’t been to before. So I am narrowing down my choices to fit the time I have. My search is what led to the advice in this article. I recommend you also read The Best National Parks to Photograph in Winter.

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Winter Photography Safety Essentials

Some of the winter travel items I carry in the trunk of my car.

Some of the winter travel items I carry in the trunk of my car. This is the kitchen and “furnace”.

I grew up in Colorado where strange weather can strand you in any month of the year. Even though it is rare, I’ve seen blizzards in the high country in July. So I learned to carry some safety essentials when doing winter photography in remote locations. You never know when you might be stranded for several hours, a whole day, or longer, until the blizzard abates and someone can come find you. This is what I carry in my car pretty much year around but especially in the winter. I include a few winter travel tips, too.

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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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How To Focus Your Lens at Infinity for Night Photography

Photography workshop out at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Photography workshop at night. Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.

The most important and difficult step in night photography is to focus your lens at infinity. If you have tried to focus on the stars at night you have already learned that it is an impossible task for the autofocus system and just about impossible for you to do manually. You just can’t see clearly enough through the viewfinder in the dark of night to manually focus on the stars. Fortunately, there are some ways to get the job done.

Originally posted Jan. 8, 2017. Revised and expanded Feb. 10, 2017.

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How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model when it is so cold.

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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

The “snow exposure latitude” for every camera is different. You won’t find it in your camera’s manual but it is easy to determine with a do-it-yourself test. Why does it matter? If you don’t know the snow exposure latitude for your camera and how to apply apply it to your images, the color and quality of your winter photos will suffer.

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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! When you don’t have the benefit of moonlight, most of the year land forms a dark to black  silhouetted skyline against the night sky. In winter you have the possibility of including the highly reflective snow. You can see both in this photo. Any place not covered with snow is very dark to black. Having reflective snow is why winter is the favorite time of year for a lot of photographers to go out and 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 one of your camera’s automatic 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. So what do you do?

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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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“How To” Series: Winter Photography

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. I am in the process of revising and updating this series. I am also revising some related articles and adding new ones. Check out the links below. The articles will help you meet the unique challenges of winter photography. So get out there, have fun, and create some great winter images!

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National Geographic’s Best Photos of 2016

A pet saddleback tamarin hangs on to Yoina Mameria Nontsotega as the Matsigenka girl takes a dip in the Yomibato River, deep inside Peru’s Manú National Park. Photo by Charlie Hamilton James.

A pet saddleback tamarin hangs on to Yoina Mameria Nontsotega as the Matsigenka girl takes a dip in the Yomibato River, deep inside Peru’s Manú National Park. Photo by Charlie Hamilton James.

Out of 2,290,225 photographs by 91 photographers, National Geographic picked the 52 best images of the year.

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Get Sharper Images By Using The Best Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

A lot of photographers have discovered their almost sharp lens was actually a very sharp lens once they tweaked the micro-adjustment settings. You will get sharper images if you adjust the settings for your specific camera and lens combinations. You do this using the micro-adjustment settings in the camera menu along with a lens calibration tool which you can buy or make yourself.

Article posted Dec. 28, 2016.

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How to Photograph Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights, iPhone Photo

Christmas Lights, iPhone Photo

The photo abilities of smart phones have improved dramatically in the last few years, especially in low light situations. Just point your camera phone at the lights and click the shutter. Exposure can be a bit iffy. If the photo looks too light or too dark and your phone will allow you to alter the exposure, take advantage of that feature.

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