Photo Newsletter – January 2011-01-15آ January 2011 Photo Newsletter –2– The

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  • January 2011 Photo Newsletter


    Paris Moraine, Winter Evening Photo Newsletter – January 2011

    Welcome to 2011! How’s that diet going – not so well? Consider setting some photography goals for yourself this year, instead. Is there a par- ticular destination you want to photograph or have you set yourself a theme or two to work on? Maybe it’s a foray into black-and-white or learn- ing about printing images effectively. Perhaps there’s a marriage or special birthday you wish to commemorate with a photo book, calendar or slideshow.

    You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the “g” word, yet. Some enthusiasts set their goals by the gear they acquire (ooops, I said it) – the next lens or flash or perhaps an updated body (wouldn’t we all like that!)

    But photography is about seeing.. Sure some equipment might help you capture what you see more precisely, but, gear has never made a great photograph – that can only come from the vision of the photographer.

    Try setting yourself some visual goals this year. Personal projects work best for keeping you motivated: capturing a specific park or neigh- bourhood or local river in four season, or learning a new technique – stars or fireworks or close-ups of wood grain…now is the time to set some goals.

    This Month:

    Winter Photography Of all the seasons, there is something special

    about winter that makes photography particularly satisfying. Winter is so completely different from the other three seasons: it’s stark, yet, depending on the light, colours can be either sombre and muted or breathtakingly vibrant. Places you have come to know in spring or summer are completely transformed with snow blanketing the ground. As always, lighting is the key, and in winter it can be challenging: without the sun shining, snow be- comes pasty-looking with few features and no tex- ture. Yet, with sunshine there is the challenge of high contrast and heavy shadows. Achieving cor- rect exposure becomes a matter of balancing the whiteness of snow without losing details in the highlights.

    Overriding all of this, however, is the small matter of successfully overcoming the cold! It’s great to be outside in the bright snowy world of winter, but if you’re uncomfortably cold, it’s no fun. As I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of times – dress in layers. The more air you can trap in lay- ers, the warmer you’ll be. And, if you start to get

    too warm, you can unzip to vent and/or remove layers.

    When working with a metal tripod, your hands are especially vulnerable to cold. Ideally, you al- ways want to have gloves on; I often wear a thin pair of gloves with a thicker pair of mittens or nylon/GoreTex overmitts. Gloves with rubberized or textured fingers and palm help to grip cold equipment. I do all my set up with both layers on, then take off the overmitts to work the finer cam- era controls. Some photographers prefer fingerless gloves, but I’ve not found them warm enough when my fingers touch a cold camera.

    The other part to keep warm is your feet. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself standing around waiting for the ideal light or the wind to stop blowing. An extra thick pair of socks inside good felt liners will keep your toes toasty. I also put on a pair of silk socks liners for added com- fort.

    In fact, having a good set of long underwear is essential. Cotton is good but it absorbs sweat and makes you clammy rather than wicking sweat away from the body to keep you warm like poly- propylene does. Silk, too, is wonderful: it’s a natu- ral fibre and not more expensive than a good set of polypropylene.

    Follow my Blog at My website is it and my Gallery can now be found at Note: All the words in green type are hyperlinked to the corresponding website or email address. Just click and go – but do come back and continue reading!

    photography by Terry A. McDonald 79 Vanier Drive, Guelph, ON N1G 2K9 519.265.4151

  • January 2011 Photo Newsletter


    The layer you wear over your fleece or wool top and bottoms really needs to be windproof. I find that a windproof anorak or coat and trousers is more important than having inches of insula- tion. It gives me the flexibility to cool down when needed and, unless I’m in –30°C weather and standing for hours, I’m fine in long underwear with a turtle neck and good fleece top with fleece pants all covered with GoreTex. As soon as I start tromping or skiing to the next photo, I’m warm

    again in minutes. As I warm up, I vent excess heat by unzipping or loosening cuffs.

    Now that you’re toasty, it’s time to head outside into the field. Your gear is fine in a zip-up camera bag.; I tend to use a waist pack or my shooting vest in winter to keep things handy and up out of the snow. Keeping your spare batteries in an inside coat pocket will keep them warm and active, but your camera should not be kept in your coat. All your body moisture is in there – moisture that can end up freezing inside the camera when it sits on a tripod for even a few minutes. You’ll also end up with less condensation in the lens if you keep the cam- era outside in the cold. To prevent condensation when you go back inside, keep your equipment zipped up in your camera pack or vest until it has warmed. If your battery dies in the cold, just replace it with a spare. Once the “dead” battery warms again, it will probably still have juice.

    Just like the rest of the year, I prefer early mornings or late af- ternoons for nature photography and landscapes: warm tones and low sun angles create great col- our contrasts and shadows. The nice thing about winter is that sunrise isn’t until 7:30 or 8am – a much more realistic time than summer! Also, with lower sun angles, shooting can continue through the morning. For my

    style of photography, afternoons are a bit dull un- til around 3pm. That being said, a lot depends on the subject. Wooden buildings and barns might just be ideal with higher sun angles.

    The problem with winter photography, though, is how to tame the highlights. If you rely solely on your light meter, snow will be underexposed by 1½ to 2 stops and shadows will be black. Try it! Take a picture of

    snow only: your image will be grey and your his- togram will be all bunched in the middle – not ideal for full-toned images. While it can be recov- ered in post-capture processing, you have literally thrown away half of the most usable pixels of light: as you increase exposure on computer, you are “stretching” the middle pixels to fit into the

    In winter, the mantra “Expose to the right!” is even more critical.

    Snow, Dorset 120mm; ƒ8 @ 1/30; ISO 200 On overcast days, shift your focus to shapes, textures and tones and avoid the blank white sky as much as possible. Be sure to exposure to the right raising ex- posure values to take full advantage of limited tonality.

    Hoar Frost and Snow, 44mm; ƒ8 @ 1/640 ; ISO 100 The beauty of hoar frosty on clear, sunny day. When shoot- ing this, I raised the exposure by +1 to maintain the true white of the snow.

  • January 2011 Photo Newsletter


    highlights which introduces noise in the shadows and reduces colour information.

    For this reason, in winter, the mantra “Expose to the right!” is even more critical. Turn on the “highlight clipping” option in your playback menu and watch your histogram (see the Novem- ber 2010 Newsletter). After your first exposure, keep adding exposure by dialing in exposure compensation until the highlights start blinking. Small specular highlights will become overex- posed first but that’s okay. It’s the expanses of snow and sky you don’t want to lose to pure white.

    But enough of the technical, photography is about seeing images. In winter, I am most often trying to take advantage of the shapes and tex- tures I see to build them into the scenes in front of me. Often, it’s a shape or texture or dramatic lighting that catches my eye and becomes, for me,

    the key element or focal point. I will then work towards composing an image which accentuates that key element within the larger landscape. This is predominantly a mental-visual process, aided by looking through the viewfinder or a shooting card – a black rectangle of card with a rectangle cut out, like a frame or mat. Visualizing the image ahead of time is critical for two reasons: 1.from a visual perspective, the more I work off-tripod in composing the image, the less hassle I have in setting up the tripod in the correct spot at the correct level;

    2. in a more practical sense, I don’t want to be stepping on and leaving footprints in places where I want pristine snow!

    For this reason, I often approach a scene thinking carefully about the foreground and what role it will play in the image then gradually work my way into the scene being careful not to ruin the snow for other images.

    The biggest difficulty in winter photography is with overcast skies. The snow becomes pasty-looking with no texture. If the sky occupies a large expanse, as it might in land- scapes, the photograph can