Seven inches of snow fell in the Horicon Marsh area a few days ago and more is on the way. The winter wonderland creates some great opportunities for photography. Snow presents some challenges for proper exposure, especially if the sun is shining. Often, photos of snow look gray and flat.
This Ring-necked Pheasant was a pleasant surprise. He meandered along the side of Palmatory Street in Horicon undisturbed by my car. I drove alongside him and stopped occasionally to snap a few pictures. He displayed no fear as he walked closer to inspect my car. He did look both ways before crossing. I’m not kidding. Eventually, he walked in front of the car and I waited until he roamed back into the snowy brush. I focused on his head when taking his picture. I didn’t care if the snow was a bit overexposed in this case. I was more concerned about the Pheasant being exposed properly.
I switched to manual mode when a correct exposure of the snow was important to the photo. I set the ISO to 200 since less sensitivity to light is needed. The aperture was set to give me the depth of field I wanted. I experimented with having the whole bridge in focus and having the back of the bridge go out of focus. Then I adjusted the shutter speed until the exposure level scale at the bottom of the viewfinder was in the center. I took a shot and looked at the histogram. I wanted the right-most color in the RGB graph to be just at the right edge of the graph. If it wasn’t, I adjusted the shutter speed up or down. For RAW images, we want the right-most color on the graph to touch the right edge of the graph without climbing up. For JPEG images, we want the right-most color to be just short of the right edge of the graph.
I added a polarizing filter and took a few more shots using the above technique. I stood about 90 degrees to the sun and rotated the filter until I could see more texture in the snow. It darkened the sky and cut the glare on the snow.
I would love to have spent more time playing with depth of field and composition, but it was only 10 degrees and breezy. Fingerless gloves allowed me to work the controls on the camera. A couple of hand warmers in my pockets kept my fingers warm. I just discovered these biodegradable hand warmers from L. L. Bean. Just open the package and they start to warm up. After returning home, the warmers went in my slippers to warm up my toes. They last up to 10 hours.
Before getting back in my warm car, I put my camera in a plastic bag. Then I put it in my camera bag. When I got home, I let the bag warm up before removing my camera. Condensation stayed on the outside of the plastic bag and not in my camera. I made myself a hot cup of tea while waiting for the camera to warm up.
It is early in the winter season and there will be plenty more opportunities to play in the snow. If only it could be 70 degrees at the same time.
Note: I do not receive any compensation from LL Bean.
It is amazing to me that this papery swirl of a home is made from wood pulp and hornet spit. How do hornets incorporate the leaves into it? How many trips does it take to go from a tree to get a bit of wood, chew it while mixing it with saliva, and fly back to transform it into a nest? I don’t know the answers to these questions but it is a work of art to be admired from afar.
I worked entirely in manual mode with my camera today. I purposely sought out white birds in the sun in hopes of conquering the overexposure problem. I set the ISO at 200. All of the shots I am sharing today are taken at 600 mm. I set the aperture at various openings. Shutter speed was adjusted until the arrow on the exposure level scale in the viewfinder was at zero. After taking a shot, I pressed the “info” button on the back of the camera and looked at the histogram. I tried to keep the color that was farthest to the right on the graph just to the left of the right margin of the histogram. I adjusted the shutter speed as needed to achieve this. I was much happier with the results of the shots of white birds that I took today compared to shots taken previously. There is more light and shadow and more detail is preserved in the feathers.
Tweaking needed to be done depending on how much of the white bird filled the frame and whether there were dark birds nearby. As long as the photo data stayed just to the left of the right margin (for JPEG), detail was preserved and I could adjust shadows in Photoshop Elements during post processing. If data climbed up the right margin of the histogram, detail was lost. It could not be recovered in post processing. I’m guessing the swans were loosening aquatic plants and the ducks were benefiting from the swan’s efforts.
Manual mode isn’t quite so intimidating now. I’m excited to continue to play with and to learn how to improve my exposures even more.