Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter Photography Tips

The following column appeared in the Herald-Sun on Dec. 12. Thanks to our fantastic instructor Jennifer Weinberg for sharing her useful tips.

Winter Photography

Photo & article by Jennifer Weinberg

Winter is a fantastic time for nature photography. But there are pitfalls, from light issues caused by snow to tricky indoor-outdoor temperature changes. Below are 10 tips to help you capture the outdoor scenes of your dreams.

You Have the Power. The cold can freeze the energy flow in batteries, making them act like dead batteries. Keep them warm with body heat. If your camera isn’t working, take the battery out and warm it in your hand. Keep extra batteries in a pocket close to your body so they’re ready to go.

Keep Your Legs Warm. Your tripod legs, that is. Cold metal can be very uncomfortable to the touch. Wrap tripod legs in pipe insulation to make carrying and adjusting your tripod freeze free.

Watch for Water. Photographing in snow is like photographing in rain and can cause water damage if you’re not careful. Keep your equipment protected and wrap gear in plastic bags. Don’t forget to leave an opening for your lens!

Prevent condensation whenever you can. Going into the cold from your home or a warm car may cause condensation. Be patient and allow your camera to adjust slowly.

Breathe Deeply. And away from the camera. Warm breath can cause condensation and in some cases may cause frost or ice. To avoid this, keep your breath away from the viewfinder and lens. Also, don’t give in to the urge to blow snow off of your camera. Wipe it away with your hand or cleaning cloth.

Make all white all right. Snow tricks the meter in your camera, and photos often appear dark or underexposed. Use the exposure compensation setting (+/-) to correct for snow at a +1 or +2 setting. Another approach may be to try setting your camera on the scene mode for snow.

Get a clear view. Because a winter scene can cause glare, it may be difficult to view your LCD screen. You may want to invest in a hood or use your hand to shade the screen. You can also make your own hood with duct tape or mat board if you’re crafty!

Position Yourself. Knowing where the sun is in relation to your subject is important any time of day. As with all outdoor photography, time of day and quality of light are key. Early morning and late afternoon are the best time to be outside. At a lower angle, the sun casts long, soft shadows and should be positioned at a right angle to your subject. Keep the sun behind you when it’s high in the sky.

You Can Forget. About your memory, that is. Most memory sticks won’t have any problem with cold or freezing temperatures.

Come in from the cold with care. Again, condensation presents an issue. Take your memory card out of the camera and store it in your camera bag (or a plastic bag) before going inside. Keep the bag closed and let your equipment slowly acclimate for an hour or so.

If you’d like to learn more about nature photography or your camera, consider taking my class at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, “Digital Photography: Understanding Digital Camera, Camera to Computer & Photo Editing,” Jan. 14, 21 and 28, or the myriad courses in Duke Gardens’ Nature Photography Certification series. For information or to register, call 668-1707 or write to aleduc@duke.edu. Go here for a full schedule of Duke Gardens classes.

Jennifer Weinberg has been a professional photographer for eight years and teaches photography workshops in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. She has a portrait studio on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. See Weinberg’s photos and workshop dates at www.jenniferweinberg.com.

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