The Challenge of Shooting in Snow

We got another snowfall the other day and, given the erratic weather temperatures, I thought it might be the last of the year and wanted to get some pictures of my kids in the snow. Of course, taking photographs of moving targets (my kids) on a sunny day, with a blanket of snow on the ground can be challenging.

I was shooting in manual mode, which is not quite second nature to me yet, and every time I would adjust my settings to get the correct exposure, my kids would move into or out of shadows. So, I’d move with them and then try to take the photo but I would forget to check my settings again before taking the picture. This isn’t always a problem, but the difference between the correct exposures for full sun and shade areas (or for when I was turned this way instead of that way) was much more pronounced with highly-reflective snow on the ground. As a result I had several underexposed or overexposed photos. This was (sort of) to be expected.

What I didn’t expect was how great the light would be in really shady areas. Here’s a photo I took of my daughter as I followed her around the back side of our garden shed. It’s not great. The exposure was okay, but she has bright spots and shadow lines on her face from the sun shining through the trees. Also, the leaves and sticks behind her are distracting. Lastly, I didn’t get down to her level, so she’s looking up at me, which makes this feel a whole lot like a snap shot… which it was.

50mm, f/4.5, ISO 200, 1/500 sec

Seconds after I took that photo, she turned her back to me, and walked around the side of the shed. I went in the opposite direction, crouched to get more to her level, changed only my aperture, and got this photo.

50mm, f/1.8, ISO 200, 1/500 sec

It’s not perfect. I’d be happier if her right hand and right foot weren’t cut off, and if she were looking at me, that would’ve been even better. But there still is something special about this photo. She was in full shade, so there are no funny shadows falling on her and no bright spots. This was an area that is normally pretty shady and wouldn’t make for great shooting conditions, but the snow acted like a giant reflector, bouncing all kinds of light back into her face and body. Also, I actually like that she’s looking down. It’s like stealing a glimpse of a child when she thinks she’s all alone and is wrapped up in her own thoughts–whatever they may be at this age. I especially like the bokeh behind her, from the light coming in through the trees and reflecting off of the leaves.

Shortly after taking this photo and looking at it on my camera, I tried to get my kids back on that side of the shed to take advantage of the nice light and bokeh. No such luck. Maybe next time we have a sunny day and a blanket of snow. It’s all melted now. In the meantime, I’ll try to bank this experience in  my memory for the next time I’m taking photographs in the snow.

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5 responses to “The Challenge of Shooting in Snow

  1. It makes me wonder too what her little mind was thinking…..They are so lucky to have a mommy trailing them around taking pictures……I love that you take so much time with them and you love every minute of it……you really do, and that is great….because this time is fleeting……but it brings me back to time and memories I spent with you….. xxoo

    • Awe… I often sit and look at my two, just thinking to myself “take in this moment…. right now, because they won’t be right here with you forever.” I know one day, sooner than I’d like, they’ll be all grown up and I’ll wonder where the time went.

  2. Cute pic of her behind the shed. Love the hat.

  3. emily lehman 10-21-11

    Great job. You may think the pictures are not the best but I think they look so natural. She is such a doll baby and so darn cute in that coat and hat. How could anyone not Love the look on her face. Just keep trying with that camera and I know you will suceed. Thanks!!

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