A lot of outdoor photographers anxiously await the chance to capture the stunning reds, golds and oranges of autumn. Nothing stirs the mind’s palette like the blazing hues of the fall. Nothing but the stark contrast of winter. Where the burnt brilliance of autumn feeds the mind’s desire to become one with nature, the whites, blacks and grays of winter speak softly, reminding the viewer that solitude often remedies the battles that go on inside us.
Both seasons present unique challenges to photograph. A fall image seldom jumps off the page in the same manner it did when viewed in person. That’s because cameras can absorb only a fraction of what the human eye can record. Perhaps that’s why winter images often more closely resemble the actual scene—it’s far easier to translate from a much smaller range of colors. Still, that doesn’t make the job of photographing snow and ice any easier. When that scene also includes a portion of the sky, the job can be downright daunting.
Consider this image of the St. Francis River in Southeast Missouri just after an ice storm. While the clear, blue sky provides the only color behind the contrast of the white snow and silver ice paired with the darker shadows of the trees and river, it poses a problem that is very common in photographing winter landscapes. White is nearly impossible to capture with today’s digital cameras. There is a long running debate between the artistic community and the scientific community as to whether white is truly a color. Regardless, it is an obstacle to overcome when shooting winter landscapes. The beauty of digital photography is that many problems can be corrected in the computer, however a photo can only be manipulated so much. Despite the fact that many photographers believe they can turn any bad photo in a good one with enough computer manipulation, Photoshop can only do so much. A photographer must still exercise attention to detail when shooting in the field.
To capture this photo, a 2-step neutral density filter was used to reduce the sun reflecting off the ice and water. A second filter, a 2-step graduated neutral density filter was attached to that to darken the sky while maintaining the light in the rest of the photo. An 18mm lens set with an aperture of f/9 captured both the sprawling scene and the depth of field. An ISO setting of 200 was used.
Gary Figgins is owner and publisher of Show-Me Missouri, a statewide travel magazine that features Missouri travel destinations and attractions. Gary’s photographs fill the pages of this publication, often with beautiful double-page spreads featuring the outdoors. See http://www.showmemissouri.net/