Little is more beautiful than snowfall in the wintertime, especially on a cold winter night.
Snow falling from the heavens can transform an ordinary place into a world full of mystery and magic.
In low light, snow looks like stardust falling softly from the sky.
Snowflakes, floating gently to the ground, add a sense of calm and quiet to a scene … the silence is deafening.
With long exposures, falling snow becomes invisible to our camera’s eye, but light caught by snow crystals creates a subtle glow that fills the air.
But keep in mind that photographing snowfall after nightfall can have some minor pitfalls.
It is normal to seek shelter in the snow when shooting at night to protect yourself and your camera. But finding a safe place from which to shot can be a double-edged sword.
Be forewarned. Be careful where you take cover. Snow does not drop only from the sky.
Snowpack or icicles can also fall unexpectedly from tree limbs, rooftops and electrical wires, or from anything overhead where snow collects.
Having a pile of snow come crashing down on you is not necessarily dangerous, but it can be quite a shock, and certainly an unwelcome interruption to a desirable photo session.
Other than the exercise in caution to protect yourself and your camera, photographing at night while it is snowing is an exhilarating experience.
By taking just a little more risk than usual, photographing a nocturnal winter wonderland can reap tremendous rewards, namely more evocative images for your nighttime portfolio.
IMAGE : Winter Shadows, Jemez Springs, NM
One moonless night, a relatively heavy snowstorm came to town, so of course I grabbed my camera and headed out to explore the possibilities.
When I set up my tripod and camera for this shot I didn’t notice that I was standing under several electrical lines covered with snow. In the middle of a 4 minute exposure, I was surprised by a giant pile of powder crashing down on me and my camera.
“Not to worry,” I thought, “I’ll just dust the snow off my camera and clean the lens.” Then to make sure my lens was free of snow dust, I blew on it. Bad idea. I didn’t just fog my lens, the moisture from my breath froze and created an ice sheet on the glass.
So I looked around and found a place to get out of the falling snow. I then put my camera under my coat for a few minutes to warm it up and melt the ice. Then I had to dry off the lens with my shirtsleeve, because everything else was wet from the snowy assault.
Finally, I returned my camera to my tripod, and finished my photo session. Lesson learned.
This image is the result of bracketing then selecting the 2 minute exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. The long exposure was necessary to capture the snow in the foreground.
IMAGE TINT : GallerySilver
Silver toning is the perfect choice for this black and white image to convey the look and feel of the snow filled nighttime scene.
This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile derived from the “GallerySilver” Color Map created in Mac App SuiteProfiler.
Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:
EXERCISE : Snowfall
Next time you look out the window and see snow falling at night, go out and photograph a scene covered in snow.
A lens hood and a cloth draped over your camera should protect your equipment, but take an umbrella along just in case.
Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.
FEEDBACK : Snowfall
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NEXT TIME : “Snowstorms”
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