This article is part of the “Today, I Will Photograph” series, an adventure in which I set out to produce a photograph a day for a month and blog about it.
I left and went to town today just past noon. I was on two minds about going. Snow was forecast and I had no idea when it would arrive. The weatherman had called for it by noon, but he was wrong once or twice before. I finished my to-do list and, at around 2:30 pm (armed with a jug of coffee cream), I headed for home. I scanned the horizon for a dwye. No snow. In fact, the sun was shining! I really don’t mind that at all, but on this particular day I want snow. Snow Falling is my topic for today’s Today, I Will Photograph. Mr. Weatherman, today you can’t be wrong, you are not allowed to be wrong! At 3 o’clock pm he’s still wrong. Now, what’s one to do? There was snow to the east of us. There’s snow on the ground. There’s snow all around! But none falling down…
Four in the afternoon. Overcast, but no snow. Darkness will soon envelope the landscape. Will a night shot will be in order for snow falling? This is not what I envisioned. But what if it doesn’t snow at all today (and night)? I am definitely not taking this one to the studio! I’m still reeling from yesterday’s studio gig, a reflection, in black and white.
I decided to take care of some minor details. My camera battery was getting low. Put that on charge. Check. Line up your boots. Already done, but check anyway. Mitts, coat, hat. Check. Flashlight. Check. I didn’t like that one: Flashlight. But after all, by now it’s only 30 minutes to darkness. No snow falling. Time to put on my thinking cap. Where is Red Cloud when you need him? Then again, it’s not rain I want! Darkness crept across the land. It’s 4:52pm. With the going down of the sun, so does the temperature. The forecast called for Minus 15C (5 Fahrenheit). And windy, with a wind chill of minus 26C (-14.8 F). Let’s hope the’re wrong about that, too.
A decision was made for the shoot to start at 8pm. However, a pre-scout is in order to look for some form and lighting. No doubt, when I start the shoot the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) on my camera won’t be liquid for long! My liquid crystals will probably take a beating as well. Off to the pre-scout.
UPDATE: 6:46pm, flurries, cold, windy. I’m going for the shot early. By the time you get to the next paragraph my icy experiment will be complete!
I’m froze! The shot was very difficult. Here’s what I did: I decided to travel to the local wharf and shine my car headlights out across the water. I would experiment with the snow passing across the headlights. I know that you can’t get snow to register well with an extended open shutter due to motion blur (which is why I wanted to do this during the daylight). I decided to play around with flashing the snow with my on-camera strobe and then let the headlights do the exposing of the scene across the beach. The problem was, the headlights were too focused on one spot and the effect was negligible. I recorded a round blob of white on the snow-covered ice pans floating along the shoreline. Now, what to do, other than sit in the car and warm up – it’s bitter cold standing by the water’s edge and the weatherman was bang on! I had the floodlight along from last night’s shoot. The big 1 million candle power studio monster. So, that’s what I shall do. Paint the background in and strobe the snow. After all, photo-graphy loosely translated to English means painting with light. Just one small problem. No snow. The heavens were gleaming like jewels. The flurries had ended. Time to warm up!
I decided to make it snow. I scraped together a pile of the fine powdery gold dust, and with my camera’s timer set to 10s delay (for your info, I’m at f13, 30 sec, and focal length set to its widest of 24mm), I started to throw snow across the front of the camera just before the strobe fired. Then I ran for my light and painted away. And for all that effort it was just as well if I had left the lens cap on. The snow was there, alright, just too much of it, obscuring the scene. Getting extremely cold, I took a break to warm up, and shot a couple of more frames. On this night, I was convinced, I wouldn’t get the shot.
On and off, light snow flurries would blow by. Nothing that I could capture with my technique: timer, strobe, 30 sec, paint. But get something anyway: the outline of the beach and old wharf and fishing stage, the lights across the bay, the ice pans ebbing and flowing with the strong tide pressing in from the ocean…something, anything! At the smallest hint of a flurry, I made a couple of more exposures and called it a wrap. Only one problem: my car is on a sheet of ice and I can’t get back on the main road. Eventually, I abandoned my trusty little 4-wheeled warming-hut and walked the 20 minutes to my door.
Back at the home sweet homestead (automobile-less), I brought the images up on my computer screen and, playing around with some really out-to-lunch curves with my photo editing software, I came up with the image that you see here. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I did to extract driving snow out of it (however, I did save the recipe to file), and if I didn’t bend the curve adjustment beyond reality, I wouldn’t have believed there was snow there. But there was. This image is not a seller, nor a keeper, but it does represent an arduous adventure and in the end made it all worth while, from a personal perspective. A great bit of fun. And herein lies my image for today: Driving Snow
Two tips: shoot RAW to extract the most information from your file, and wrap your camera in a blanket when coming in from extreme cold to a warm environment to avoid condensation creeping into every crevice of your precious instrument.
By the way, if you come by my neck of the woods, give me a hand. I’ll need at least 50 pounds of sand and salt spread along the couple of hundred feet of road near the ocean shoot location. I hope you enjoyed this little adventure as much as I did. Thanks for reading The Photo Journal.
Shoot ’til it feels good! Unless it’s minus 26. Go home!