Snow is cold and sloppy. It this wasn’t bad enough for the photographer, there is one other problem to face: snow can fool your camera when exposing.
Snow is white and a blanket of snow shows the camera exposure meter a blanket of white. Consequently, the camera will average all the white it sees and attempt to produce an image that is “average” or “mid grey”. This means that snow turns out not white, but some dirty, murky colour.
But how do you ensure that snow on your image is the virgin white that your eyes see? It’s easy.
Because your camera sees a vision of white, it will underexpose the image leading to murky highlights and detail. You need to tell the camera to change the exposure – just dial in some overexposure. This is usually in the form of extra “stops” of exposure on your camera but you will need to refer to your camera manual to see exactly how this is done.
An overexposure setting in 1 or 1.5 stops should get your snow scene bright once more!
Skylight filters are cheap, freely available and come in various filter thread sizes. You will have little trouble obtaining one but you must ensure the correct size to fit your lens. Everyone can afford one and there will be a filter to fit every lens (or almost).
The primary function of a skylight filter is to cut down excessive UV rays which, in turn, make scenes in the distance appear to have a blue haze. The filter effectively reduces the haze and blue colour cast. Pictures of hills and mountains in the distance look clearer.
The secondary function, and why you should have one on each lens, is that of protection. Like a lens cap, the skylight filter fits over the front of the lens and helps to prevent the ingress of dirt and dust. It also protects the lens from the effects of oily and greasy fingers, stick hands and from accidental knocks. It is much cheaper to replace a skylight than it is to replace a damaged lens.
In fact, you might not even understand what these terms mean! And, it doesn’t matter.
Because if you have your camera set on “Auto” or “Program” then you will already be in a position to take excellent pictures which show your creative side.
Because, by leaving aside the worry about which settings to choose and when, you can now focus on what makes one photographer better than another – creativity. Without the worry of setting up the camera you can now concentrate on finding the image that pleases you, composing the shot on the LCD screen and selecting the right moment to take the shot.
In fact, the pressure will now be on you to get decent shots and with you mind training on “selection, composition and timing” you will be able to show the world – and yourself – that getting a great picture is not so much dependent on the type of camera you own but more on the inspirational faculties of the owner.
On the other side of the coin, my father has a lens for his film SLR that he bought over 30 years ago. It is ragged, chipped and squeaks a bit. But he won’t part with it. It was cheap(ish) but it lacks some of the functionality of my friend’s DSLR lens.
My friend’s lens is huge. I can see him coming in the distance simply because he had a large photo-rucksack on his back to hold all his equipment. It is a splendid piece of glass but requires a tripod or monopod for all but the brightest of conditions.
The lens is also white. It stands out and says to everyone “I am a lens to look at”. My friend loves it and gives him added impetus to get out there and take pictures.
My father, however, gets the same results – and has been doing for 30 years – with his rag-bag of assorted accessories, some of which are nearing the end of their useful life. His lens, although tatty, produces excellent results and gets HIM out in the field taking shots, just like my friend’s does for him.
My father’s lens doesn’t choose the subject for him, compose the scene and tells him at which point to release the shutter…
…. nor does my friends.