Author's site of Gennady Hertzev. Photography, graphics, painting.

Snow, ice and frost

Snow, ice and frost

Scenes with snow can also be filmed in a gloomy sky, but the result will be a very low contrast, and when shooting on color film, you will get an overall blue excess tone. To revive the monotony of such images, you need some brightly colored object, placed in the frame as an attention-getting spot. It is best to shoot a snowy landscape in bright sun and fresh snow. As soon as the sun turns the snowy surface into a sparkling tablecloth, the monotony of the snow immediately disappears, shadows from trees, fences, etc. stand out in contrast against the whiteness of the earth and the whole landscape is harmoniously combined with the blue sky. Back lighting or harsh side lighting gives the best results. In these conditions, the details of the landscape are also good, for example, the snow lying along the pattern of the branches.

Technically, for inexperienced photographers, snow photography has a number of difficulties. The first is the exposition. Remember that most exposure meters are calibrated so that the overall image looks like some standard gray tone. And that usually fits well with the average subject. But as soon as you point the meter at something as white as snow, difficulties immediately arise. At the exposure indicated by the meter as correct, the snow will appear gray in the picture. In other words, the meter will indicate a noticeable underexposure, and if you shoot exactly according to the exposure thus determined, the whole scene will appear faded and the snow muddy. The correct solution in this case is to ignore the snow and take the light meter readings from some other area, located closer to the camera, which is not affected by the blinding glare of the snow. In this case, it would be useful to use a gray card, but if there is none, use something equivalent in tone, or at least the back of your own hand. You can act differently. Take the readings of a separate exposure meter or the exposure meter built into your device, and open the aperture one to two stops (increase the exposure by 1-2 stops). The next surprise is that even these readings turn out to be too low according to the usual norms. While your measurements appear to be one stop lower than expected, they are likely correct and due to the presence of snow in the plot. The snow-covered ground itself acts as a giant reflector, affecting the overall exposure.

This unusually high reflectivity can cause other problems as well. If the sky above the landscape is blue, the snow reflects that color primarily and takes on an overall blue tone. As with many other common redundant tones, our eyes and our brains tend to neglect it simply because our brains know that snow is white and that is how it conveys information about it. But the film “sees” and registers it as blue. This tone is light and can enhance the image, but if you want to correct it, use a weak straw yellow filter type 81A or 81B. Since in this case the exposure is less than normal in relation to the landscape, approximately one stop of the aperture scale, the blue sky will be rendered darker than usual. In this situation, you shouldn’t be tempted to use a polarizing filter to darken the sky even more. This filter will darken the sky while also dampening the sparkle of the snow.

Ice and frost are also good subjects for shooting, at least for close-ups. They can be removed even in strong cloud cover, and with rare glimpses of dim winter sunlight, which makes them sparkle. Ice and frost form at the edges of plants and leaves and follow the pattern of thin foliage membranes. If you need to enhance the sparkle, add some side or backlighting with a small flash connected to the camera with an extension cable. Observe the pieces of ice and take close-ups of them. They look especially good when backlit by the low sun. All of the above scenes are good for both color and black and white photography.