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Sun and Snow

When there is snow on the ground and the air is cold but the sun is still shining brightly in the sky then we are presented with an unusual set of problems as photographers. Capturing photographs against such a bright white background is nigh on impossible without some careful consideration beforehand, it is far too easy in snowy conditions to end up with an image that is completely over saturated and ends up like a white blur. To successfully take pictures in snowy extremes you will have to be deeply familiar with your camera equipment and it's limitations as it will be stressed in ways that you may not have even considered.

Photographing in snow presents a technical challenge that needs to be overcome before one can even consider beginning to snap photographs. The low temperatures of the snow and the heat of the sun can present you with plenty of dilemmas, and the most important thing you need to be aware of is how these contrasting extremes effect your digital camera. The cold temperate that most experience when in the snow will definitely have an effect on your equipment, particularly the battery life. Expect to go through batteries up to ten times quicker than you would normally; however all is not lost. The batteries are not completely dead but just chilled, and if you pop them in a pocket and allow them to warm up they will begin to function again until the chill begins to take hold. You can repeat this process many times until the battery does become genuinely dead and needs replacing with a completely new fresh set. You also need to consider the fact that when moving around your camera lens may fog up or form a lot of condensation which you must remove with a soft cloth purchased from a reputable camera store. If you do not keep your lens condensation free you will find that the quality of your images will suffer and they will come out rather blurry and smudged in places. If you venture from inside to outside and vice versa be sure to check your lens before you photograph as the temperature change will force your lens to fog up again.

You will most certainly be resigned to shooting in manual mode when you are taking photographs in the snow, particularly if the sun has made an appearance. Snow is incredibly bright and reflective (this is why skiers and snowboarders wear sunglasses when out on the slopes) and can actually blind in certain rare cases so it is always prudent to take precautions. Do as others around you are doing and always wear sunglasses, not only will it prevent snow blowing up into your eyes but it will stop you being dazzled. Unfortunately catering for your camera is not as simple as just donning sunglasses and you will have to find a combination of settings that produces the best and most vibrant images of the snow possible without giving you a distorted image. The trick is to overexpose the image by +1 or +2, this will compensate for the fact that your camera believes there is far more light available than there actually is. This is also true for photography on the beach; the amount of reflection of the sand makes your camera believe that there is more light available than will ever be apparent on your finished images so you must overexpose by a small amount. If you are photographing close subjects then you might consider using the flash; this will highlight your subjects and distance them from the background as they will appear far brighter than the snow.