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Old 09-01-2007, 16:24   #1 (permalink)
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Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Hey you guys --- just wanted to catch some falling snow shots ---- it's beautiful, don't know how long it will last --- it's also midday here. I have a canon xti, 50 mm macro, 17-85 mm, and a 75-300 zoom ---- I shoot some weddings photos and sports events sometimes, but i'd love to hear your thoughts on helping me get some snow shots. Go for it, and thanks.
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Old 09-01-2007, 16:46   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

The main problem you will have will be the exposure, as the snow will fool the meter, if you cant adjust it manually then 1 work around is to load the final image into ps and hit the auto levels button, it works a treat. another thing to take into consideration is the shutter speed, if you dont get a high enough speed the falling snow just looks like dirt accross the image. good luck
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Old 09-01-2007, 20:43   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

...and where might you be that you've got snow
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Old 09-01-2007, 21:06   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Yes where is the snow ..........I want some.
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Old 09-01-2007, 21:13   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Asheville, NC --- still falling and really beautiful
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Old 09-01-2007, 21:17   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Nice.....any pictures
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Old 10-01-2007, 02:45   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Don't forget your hat, scarf and gloves... it'll be cold out there!!
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Old 10-01-2007, 11:17   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

When snow is covering most of what I am shooting, I tend to dial in 2/3rds or even one full stop over over-exposure as the camera will tend to under-expose because of the brightness. However, if you are using a DSLR make good use of the histogram and make sure you have no or very little peaks at the white end.

Snow is rarely pure white as it tends to pick up the tone of the sky. During heavy snow there will often be a yellowness to the sky, under a blue sky there will be a blue tinge and when it is heavy cloud cover it will often be grey. it looks far more natural if it has tone and texture than if it simply looks like a flat blanket of white.

A grey or ND filter is often very useful as it corrects the tendency to under-expose by reducing the intensity of the light. One common mistake people make is taking pictures at night or evening with snow falling so they use a flash. This makes it pretty awful because the light bounces back off the nearest snow flakes and you just have bright white spots across an area of the picture roughly level with the flash. Down at the bottom of the picture the light will be much reduced due to the inverse square law of luminance so it won't be an even lighting. Forget flash and just use the natural lighting or ambient light from street lamps etc.

Mid day is a bad time to take these pictures as the sun is high and there are very short shadows. As the sun rises and falls you have longer shadows which give greater texture to the scene.

I look forward to seeing some of the shots you take of the snow. It's as rare as gnat's teethmarks on a cow's backside where I live!

Cheers,
Rob
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Old 14-01-2007, 20:18   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Ah, snow...
Now why does snow, or any predominantly light toned scene/subject, cause people so much trouble? The simple reason is that too many people don't bother to understand exposure control.

The first thing to do is test the contrast range of your camera. Most people recommend treating a DSLR as you would transparency film (that's fine if you know about transparency film but now many people have never used film) which is good advice. To test the contrast range of your camera make a series of exposures of a neutral (not coloured) textured surface in even light (an overcast day and a grey towel are a good combination, avoid brightly coloured things for this as your light meter is colour sensitive). Make the first exposure at the camera suggested exposure. Close down one stop (reduce exposure by one stop) and make the second exposure. Make four more exposures each time reducing the exposure by one stop. If your camera does not allow manual control use the ISO to obtain the changes (alternatively chuck it away and buy a proper camera). This sequence should produce a series of progressively darker images of the towel going into pure black.

Next, return to the camera suggested exposure and make a second series of exposures but this time increasing the exposure (making the towel lighter each time) by one stop for each shot. Make about five exposures, this sequence will take the towel lighter until it goes into pure white.

Put the images into your editing software WITHOUT ANY MESSING ABOUT! If shooting in RAW, don't do anything during the conversion as you want basic info. You want to see the 'pure' images. Zoom each to 100% and carefully examine the TEXTURE of the towel (or whatever textured subject you used). Due to uneveness of lighting/camera things just examine the centre portion of the images for consistency.

Find the darkest image that just shows the minimum texture. This is your lower limit of exposure for detail.

Examine the lighter images and again find the one that just retains a little detail. This is your upper limit for detail.

At the end of this simple test you will KNOW exactly how dark a subject can be allowed to go before it loses all detail and goes completely black. Also, you will know how light a subject can go before it tunrs completely white.

OK, lets say your result show that the last detail in the dark images is the image that received three stops LESS exposure than the camera recommended. Also, the lightest image to retain minimal detail was the one that received two stops more exposure. You can safely say that the camera has a texture range of 5 stops (which is pretty usual for a DSLR), this is the difference in stops not the number of stops of exposure which would be 6.

So, you now have enough info to accurately expose any subject or scene by asking yourself two question: How dark or light do I want this subject and how much detail do I want to have in it? When I say 'subject' I am refering to a selected area of a scene from which you take a meter reading e.g. a shadow or a light area.

Now back to the snow problem. Move close enough to an area of the snow scene where the snow is in sunlight (or the brightest light, not in the shadows). Fill the viewfinder with an area of snow and take a meter reading. If you expose at this reading you will under-expose the snow to a mid-grey tone. Now ask the two questions. The answer may be: I want this snow as light as possible but with a hint of texture. No problem. Increase the indicated exposure by the same number of stops as your test told you for the last detail in a light tone (in our example that would be two full stops). Take the shot and be amazed how easy it was to get perfect snow!

If you wanted to check how dark the shadows would be and whether they will retain detail simply move in and meter a shadow area. If the shadow has a meter reading that is 5 stops or LESS different from the meter reading you have set for your snow the shadow will retain detail and not be black. Any dark area that is more than 5 stops different will be pure black in the image. Conversely, any area of the scene that has an exposure higher than the snow area will be pure white in the image.

Of course, this procedure works for every picture you make and is the basis of the Ansel Adams zone system. Now there's food for thought. Happy experimenting.
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Old 14-01-2007, 20:46   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Ah, so you did prepare a tutorial to adapt the Zone System for DSLR, Les Excellent stuff, thanks for such a clear + concise explanation, I shall certainly be giving that test a go - save an awful lot of time + faffing around at each shoot

I think the tutorial you have set out here also belongs in the Articles + Tutorials section

BTW It's not that ppl "don't bother" to understand exposure control, it's just tricky to get to grips with in the beginning, when there are so many settings to co-ordinate in the 'simple' task of taking a photo I know this all comes naturally without having to consciously make all those decisions once one has progressed well past 'novice', but until then exposure remains largely trial + error for many amateurs However, your clear explanation here should expedite that learning process for us, thank you!
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Old 14-01-2007, 21:49   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Sorry it got rather lengthy, it wasn't intended as a 'tutorial' but a response to the problem. However, as is often the case, the explanation is harder than actually doing the test which should only take about half an hour at most.

I stand by my 'don't bother' statement which is based on many, many years experience of helping people. As you rightly state, in the beginning exposure control can seem rather tricksy which is why most people don't bother to move up the learning curve and simply waste time guessing and hoping (not a recipe for excellent photography). Even many pro's don't understand exposure control. Hey, there are only two controls to mess with how hard can it be? (only kidding OK!). No, the real problem is the conceptual aspect of exposure control, learning what the shutter speed and aperture relationship is about is easy. The real stuff is taking it into the realms of understanding, measuring brightness values, visualisation, and interpretation. That's where the zone system (or whatever people want to call the method) is the perfect tool, even in this digital age!

Once a person really understands about exposure control they seem to gain a real feeling of being in command of the medium, something many many people never feel. Whenever I have given talks to clubs/groups on the subject of exposure control I always start with the following question:

"How many people in this group can HONESTLY say they can get the desired exposure for every shot they make?"

Inevitably, there is rarely even one person that can hold their hand up and say "Yes, I can.", that isn't me trying to be smart, its true.

I suppose this issue has occupied more than a healthy portion of my photo life, trying to promote an understanding of exposure control (of course, it was the subject of my first book "Creative Exposure Control" which was very well received) and here I am continuing to promote it. Tell me to shut up, please
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Old 14-01-2007, 23:21   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

NO, DON'T SHUT UP!! But I have moved this discussion to its own thread here as I feel there is much to be discussed I've posted my reply there.
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Old 14-01-2007, 23:28   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Quick! The first snow is falling --- ADVICE?!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sslolley View Post
Hey you guys --- just wanted to catch some falling snow shots ---- it's beautiful, don't know how long it will last --- it's also midday here. I have a canon xti, 50 mm macro, 17-85 mm, and a 75-300 zoom ---- I shoot some weddings photos and sports events sometimes, but i'd love to hear your thoughts on helping me get some snow shots. Go for it, and thanks.
To steer this thread back on course ... have you posted your snow pic's yet sslolley??
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