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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.
One of the most frustrating things about being a photographer is that there are a lot of pretty things in the world, but just because they're pretty doesn't mean that they make great photos. And sometimes you just have to stick with them and see how things change. The weather has cleared. I can come outside and it's not raining. It's been raining for three days, which is great. It means all the snow is gone. So I'm not in a particularly wintry landscape. I wanted to come down here to the lake, this is Lake Tahoe, and, and I find actually a, a fairly nice wintry landscape though I'm standing here on bare ground.
Got these beautiful snow-capped mountains, and I've been wandering around here all day shooting a bunch of stuff, and there's a lot of pretty light around, and. And all day long those mountains have been over there just kind of taunting me going look we're real pretty, we're real pretty, but. But there hasn't been a shot there. They're too far away. I don't have a really long lens. They're far enough away that they're kind of low contrast. And though they're dramatic when I'm out here. When I frame up a shot with them, they're just a little small. So I've been kind of just ignoring them.
But now the moon has come up. It is not a full moon but there's a lot of moon there. And it's risen over the mountains. And now I'm starting to think, okay, the mountains and the moon and the white of the mountains with the green of this little spit of tree covered land. That might be an image there. So, I, I'm going to take a shot of it here and let you see what, what I'm getting here as I stand here. I'm going to start by just framing the moon up in the middle of the frame, and you can see this. And I don't find that especially interesting.
So, I'm going to try something else. I'm going to push the moon over to the leftmost third, and actually, I want you to look at that last image again. There's a cloud over here on the left side of the frame that's reflecting into the lake. I don't want that on the edge of the frame because it's this big, white eye magnet. So I'm going to crop that out and zoom in here. And I don't know if I want this thing, this little jetty thing that's in the water or not. I can do this, I think I need a little more room around the moon there so maybe this.
I like that, oh good now the white reflection is mostly gone so I can put the moon a little bit more back on that third line, that looks pretty good. And I like it off to the side. I have angered a duck, which is worrying me. But the proportions of the frame are not quite right. I wish I had seen the moon come up earlier. It would have been great to get it right over the mountains. Or I wish it was a little bit lower in the sky. Now, I could go in with my image editor and lower the moon, but. I'm not interested in doing that. I don't know that the image is worth that much trouble. And to be honest, that would be a very difficult edit to pull off because the shade of the sky where the moon is now is very different from where it would be lower, that would be a hard thing to do.
I can change the proportions of the image another way though, which is, what's bothering me now is the moon is so high, I don't feel like the image is wide enough. I could go to I'm at about 40 millimeters. I could go wider but if I do that everything is going to get smaller. I would need to move closer and I don't want to go wading out into the lake so I'm going to try something else. I'm going to use the ability to shoot panoramas to make my image wider. I'm not going for a big wide panoramic vista here I just want to add like another third of a frame's worth of imagery to the right of the frame here.
So, I'm going to take the shot that I just took. And then aperture priority mode, I'm locked in at F8 to insure that my depth of field stays the same. And I'm just going to rotate the camera over to here. So I went about half a frame, maybe. So again, I'm not thinking about, here's a big vista I want to shoot the whole thing. I'm really taking an image of the moon and the mountains, and this green stuff over here. But I just want it a little bit wider than, than I can get where I'm standing. So I'm using panoramic shooting and stitching to just add a little bit more to my frame.
I'm not really thinking in terms of panorama. Mostly I'm thinking about proportions. The moon is this high. The image is this wide. So by adding stitching on this extra image, I can have this. I like this. I think this works better. I think the proportions are better. I have in addition to stitching this image, taken the chance of clearing out some of that haze. Using a simple levels adjustment, I brought the blacks up a little bit. And that's pulled some of the haze out of the image and given me a little more pop on the mountains. And so now I am getting, I like the relationship between the moon and the green and the mountains.
The only thing I'm thinking now, and this is getting really fussy I don't know if it matters. But the moon is not rising straight up apparently, it's rising that way, which I didn't realize the moon does that. I guess the sun doesn't go straight over head, so maybe that makes sense. Anyway, I might prefer the moon to be directly over the edge of the green trees there. So I might walk down that way and re-shoot it, but I'm not sure. The point being I'm paying attention to perspective and I'm realizing that panoramic stitching is not always for capturing a broad vista.
Sometimes it's just to give yourself a little more width on an image when you need it to get the proportions that you want.
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