Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
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Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes

with Ben Long

Video: Exploring gear for shooting in snow

I'm back here in the kind of base camp staging area that I was working from. So that I think worked out to be a good choice.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: Mountains and Snow Landscapes
2h 27m Intermediate May 09, 2014

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Snow-covered landscapes introduce a variety of photographic opportunities and challenges. A blanket of brilliant white can do beautiful things with light, but it also complicates exposure. Crystal-blue winter skies are dramatic, but shooting in the cold can be cumbersome and hard on your gear.

In this course, photographer, author, and educator Ben Long takes a trip to Lake Tahoe to explore winter shooting at various times of the day. He also shows techniques for post-processing winter scenes to make them look their best.

Ben Long

Exploring gear for shooting in snow

I'm back here in the kind of base camp staging area that I was working from. I've got feeling back in my hands, I'm drying out some of my gear, I can start to feel my toes. Snow plows are working to clear the roads so that I can get out of here, which is great. And the snow is still coming down, the snow's coming down a lot. Just to give you an idea of what it's like outside, they're expecting six to eight inches just through the rest of the day. So it's really been snowing hard which is why I was having such a difficult time out there. I've reviewed my images. They're ok. I wasn't expecting that I was getting anything great.

What I need to be careful with, about now, is getting demoralized. I'm sure you are familiar with this feeling. I can get it at home. Just I didn't get anything. I'm a lousy photographer. All that stuff that goes up into your head. Where I go with that is, to go out the next day and feel like, okay I have to get something. And, that kind of pressure, I, I can't work under. So, I'm just trying to relax into it and go. I had a nice walk in the snow. I learned a lot about the specifics of this environment. And so, I'm just going to to see what happens when I go out shooting tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm going to cheer myself up by thinking about gear, because it just makes me happy.

I chose, for this trip, I brought two cameras on this trip. I have a Canon 5D Mark Three, which is notable for being a full-frame camera, that is, a sensor the size of a piece of 35 millimeter film. And I brought the EOS Rebel SL1 which is known for its very small size and extremely light weight. Both of those are sitting in my bag. I chose to carry this camera with me for a few reasons. First of all, it's got a cropped sensor. Now you might think well, why would you choose a cropped sensor when you've got a full frame sensor camera in your bag? For landscape shooting the crop sensor buys me a few things.

It gets me inherently deeper depth of field than I get off of a full framed camera. Now, I didn't have any big vistas today, but in general for landscape shooting you tend to go for deeper depth of field. So, having that depth of field advantage, or in this case that's a depth of field advantage to always have more of it. I did not expect that I was going to be doing anything where I would want to isolate something with a shallow depth of field. There are no flowers blooming right now. I didn't expect to be doing fine detail work. So again, the deeper depth of field works to my advantage in this case.

Also this, because of the smaller sensor, I get a narrower crop. So my lenses effectively have a little bit more telephoto reach. Again, I didn't have enough visibility to need that reach. But, in general, for landscape shooting, that can be a real advantage. Finally, this camera is much smaller and lighter than my 5D. And the lenses that are made specifically for this camera are much smaller and lighter than my 5D lenses. I've been having some shoulder pain lately. I don't want to carry a bunch of weight. So this is a real treat to have such a light camera with me.

So that I think worked out to be a good choice. What I wasn't counting on was how difficult the controls of the camera were going to be to work with heavy gloves. This is my auto focus button, that's how I've got it set right now. My shutter button is pretty much flush with the camera, I couldn't find it by feel. This, my thumb on my glove was so big I was having trouble finding it. It just turned out to be more of an issue then I was expecting it to be. So, I gotta think about my glove situation, or I need to sit down with my gloves on and really look at the camera.

And figure out exactly what it feels like to work with the gloves on. That was proving to be, as I mentioned earlier, enough of a distraction that it was keeping me from getting into some kind of photo zone. I would like to say, though, you may have noticed that my camera was getting covered with snow. I was trying to keep it in the crook of my arm to protect it. But the view finder completely filled up with snow. The back was totally covered. And it's fine. It comes back, it powers right up. It never shut down. It never gave me any problems. I can play back all of my images. I know a lot of people get really paranoid when it starts even sprinkling outside.

They think well I don't have a fancy high end weather sealed camera, so I can't go outside. These cameras within reason, are very durable and work fine in, in potentially wet weather. The weak spot on them is going to be the interface between the camera and the lens. This one is not weather sealed. That's one reason I was trying to keep it protected. The other reason was I just didn't want condensation on the front. And also it's a pretty dry snow out right now. And I kind of worked to assess that before I went out. I got the snow and I, I tried, I got some on my glove, tried to see how much it was melting and tried to see how much water it was leaving.

If it was a really, really wet, goopy snow I might not be as willing to get out in it. So I've been very pleased with the camera. I think that was a good choice. I've just got to work on my gloves. Now, there was one thing that was a surprise to me, which was my choice of camera bag. If you've seen my Gear and Workflow course, you know that, that I have a little bit of a problem with bags. I'm really into camera bags. And so, I chose this one. It's a low pro bag that I really, really like. I'm surprised to find right now that it's pretty wet. It's, it's very wet on the outside. When I go to the inside, though.

It's completely dry inside. So, I'm pleased with the waterproofing on this bag. I am going to go home this evening, and take a hair dryer to it, and get it good and dry. What I wasn't counting on, was how difficult it was to use these zippers with my gloves on. This looks like a pretty nice sized lanyard. But my gloves are thick enough that I can't find it by feel. I was having to look. As I mentioned earlier one of the things about gloves on, is I get a little more trepidacious about my ability to hold on to stuff. I'm afraid of dropping my camera. So, I'm not sure that I don't want to try and replace these somehow. because, I'm, I'm having trouble working the zippers and that's just generally getting in my way when I'm trying to, to get the camera out.

I don't want to carry the camera out all the time, because of the snow. So, easier access to the bag could be a good thing. So that's something to consider when you're looking for a really foul weather bag. If you know you're going to be using gloves, you want to think about how easy it is to get into whatever kind of bag you're using. So I'm going to go back and review my images on a bigger screen. See what I can do with them with a little image editing. Try to assess what I've done, see what I might want to do differently and then, I've just got to wait out the weather.

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