Violinist in the Snow

Beth playing her violin in the snow.

This is one of my all time favorite winter images. On a prior photo shoot, Beth and I went out into the cold and snow to create images. She played her violin while I took pictures. It was her first time shooting in the cold and snow and she was a real trooper. For that shoot she wore her long black concert dress. The snow melted not long after that, but we decide if another day came along with the right conditions we wanted to shoot in the now again.

A couple of week later I looked out my office window and big, fluffy flakes were falling, covering everything with a blanket of snow. Perfect for shooting. As if she was reading my mind, several minutes later I received a text message from Beth.

“Do you still want to do snow pictures? The flakes are huge.”

She still had a class ahead of her, plus time to get ready to go. We would be on site around 5 pm or so. Not a lot of time before dark, but enough to shoot. By the time she was out of class the big fluffy flakes had ended, but we went out anyway.

We used three outdoor locations and this image was captured at the first location. The first click of the shutter at the first location was at 5:17. The last click of the shutter at the third location was at 5:41 pm.  Then we went back to town and inside to do some portraits.

In terms of composition I often have the primary subject away from the center of the image and I find the “rules of thirds” to be useful. But for this image Beth needs to be right in the center of the road.  The two diagonal, snowy edges of the road form a triangle which leads to Beth and her violin at the apex.

Beth. All of the photos from the photo shoot.

I metered her face and added one stop of plus (+) exposure compensation. That gave me a good exposure for her face and also worked well for the snow. (If you don’t already use exposure compensation, see the article in the links section below.) 

Instead of my usual thing of doing a custom white balance, I chose a daylight white balance. Thanks to the cool color temperature of the later afternoon light, the snow had a blue tint which is just what I wanted to give the snow a nice cold look.

As we did on the prior shoot, she played her violin while I took pictures. It is a joy to listen to her play. Beth is the concertmaster and principal violinist of the Graceland University orchestra.

It was just dark enough that I needed an ISO of 800 to give me a shutter speed of 1/60 second. Just slow enough that her right hand is slightly blurred. By the end of the shoot I had the ISO up to 1600.

As for the red dress, I found it at Goodwill several years earlier in Columbus Ohio for $6.99. I bought it because I thought it might come in handy some day. I cut the tag out of the dress right before our photo shoot.

Photo Data: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-105mm lens at 45mm. f/8, 1/60 second, ISO 800.


Metering People in the Snow

How to Photograph a Musician in the Cold and Snow

How to Use Your Camera’s Exposure Compensation Scale