Monday, February 18, 2008

Taking Pictures of Snow

For my birthday I bought a new pair of snow shoes!  I've wanted a pair for a long time, but had a hard time justifying the expense with the winters we've been having for the last 10 years.  Heck, I even sold my snow blower.  But, then came this winter!  So, this weekend I decided to give them a try on our local golf course.  So, I strapped my camera on and went trekking.  Man it was cold, but thankfully no wind.  It was about 9am, so the winter sun was still relatively low.  I was hoping for some open water to shoot on the rivers, but they were mostly frozen over.  So, I decided to shoot some of the plant life left over from the fall, trying to catch their shadows in the powdery snow.
In general, cameras figure out the correct exposure for something in your picture that it thinks is an average gray.   Snow usually gives it trouble.  It is generally worse if it's an overcast day.  In that case, it will expose the white snow as gray.  On a sunny day it's generally not as bad.  In the past, I've compensated for what my camera says is the correct exposure by about 1.3 stops (over expose).  So, I was thinking that on this bright sunny day that I would only need about 1/3 overexposure compensation.  So, I took 4 photos.  The first one was at the exposure the camera wanted (zero compensation), and then 3 more increasing the exposure by 1/3 on each one.  Much to my surprise, the one that turned out closest to right on was the last one.  I had to compensate a full stop to get the proper white in my picture!  Now, this was with my DSLR (Nikon D2x).  I suspect that I need to test it out (Sunny 16 Rule) to make sure that it is computing the exposure correctly.  
These days, most point and shoot digital cameras have a menu option that allows the use of exposure compensation.  Check it out on your camera.  This will be a perfect opportunity to go out and experiment with moving away from the just basics with your camera.  Practice 'Bracketing' your exposures.  That is take at least 3 pictures of the same thing.  Expose one with no compensation, then one 1/3 -2/3rds over and the same compensation under (-1/3-2/3rds).  When you get back to your nice warm chair in front of the computer, see which one looks the best!  If you have joined our flickr photo club, post your experiment their for us to see.

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