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Photographing Winters Wonderland

Photographing Winter’s Wonderland   Grand daughter Emmy! As a child growing up, I always looked upon winters as a time of wonder: snow days off school, and family times during the holidays ; along with all the surprise and excitement the […] Associates Central

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Winter Photographing Opportunities

  The vast and endless array of subjects and photographic opportunities in the warm months keeps our shutters clicking away. Then how about the cold, doldrums of the winter months?

During winter we get some one of a kind, one chance, and only during below or near below freezing temperatures to capture wonders that only happen in winter, and sometimes during  late fall when it can get below freezing. If you are able to get out and brave the colder temperatures you can capture many spectacles otherwise left for the Eskimos or snowshoe hares. Pull up your boot straps and take a walk with me through some of the wonders I captured in the last several years, and how I took them. Plus, some thoughts on how and what to do to keep equipment safe, and dress for the cold or extreme weather.

Nice Spring Flower coming to life after a snow event.


First of all we can get some picture perfect postcard photographs on relatively mild winter days, such as the time a light early snowfall happens during the evening and late fall flowers are still soaking up the warmth of the sun during fall, you get snow covered flowers suited for Christmas postcards. Which is exactly what I did, several years ago when I took pictures of these ___spring flowers?_____ after it had snowed during the early morning hours and then warmed up as the sun started getting higher in the sky. Turning photographs into something that can be used in other ways than a wall hanging is more fun and more rewarding than just using them as family room pictures or a digital badge of honor. Also, if you find the right avenue to sell and market your photographic work, in the long run, it can pay off with $ (dollar) signs for all that hard work. Getting good winter photographs doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. 

Teasel Seed Head taken in Keyser, WV after a freezing rain event in February 2016

i-sgbVWWW As the snow was melting it revealed a lovely flower beneath it, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture it in a       digital photograph. I have learned to compensate for the brightness of the snow tricking your camera’s exposure meter is a matter of just adjusting the exposure 1, 2, or more stops higher to correct the exposure. That morning I took photos of _________ I set the f-stop at _f5.6 to try to blur the background a little, and set the shutter speed at -1/400th sec_, which was 2 or 3 stops above the reading in my camera’s meter. When shooting in snow always be aware that snow will be reflecting more light than your subject you are going to take a picture of, and you need to be aware you are going to need more light coming into the camera from that subject to get a correctly exposed picture. The way you correct this issue is to open up the camera more by lowering the f-stop, which you will also find blurs the background and for most photographs that’s what we want to make the picture less cluttered, and it makes your subject stand out, or pop if you want to use photographer and graphic people slang. You may also lower the shutter speed or a combination of a faster shutter speed and by lowering your f-stop.  You may run into situations that by getting your subject lighting the way you want it the snow gets washed out, which is when a picture or a part of a picture is at it’s brightest and loses all the detail. It is so overexposed and white it doesn’t look natural, or some call this being over-blown.


I hope this gives you a start at taking some great winter snapshots, or even better some true photographic masterpieces. During the colder times of the year other fascinating, and intriguing photographs are ready to be found and taken. Like garden or roadside seed pods with ice crystals on them. The photo to the left is of a Teasel seed-head covered in ice after a freezing rain shower we experienced this February 2016, in the central parts of the east coast of the United States. Just to show you can find amazing winter wonders almost anywhere, this Teasel photo was taken behind a Sheetz convenience store outside of Keyser, West Virginia. 

Some other site I took photographs this winter were the snowy banks by a stream, and nodules of ice created by water dripping off a hose that allows people to fill up containers of drinking water from a spring in Springfield, West Virginia. All of the type subjects that can be found in most temperate ( having 4 seasons of the year) regions of Our wonderful Nation (USA), or the world.

Another nice opportunity I found was flowing water that had run along the branch to collect on the limbs and buds displaying a natural artistic beauty, and adorning the branch with wings like glass. The tips of the sculptured branch was displaying large frozen water droplets to make for a real interesting subject. Taken about 20-30 feet off a country road where the spring is frequented, by people that use it to have fresh uncontaminated water, shows you that you do not have to go far off the beaten trail to find scenes and subjects during the colder, bare months of winter. Sometimes a little inclement weather will lead to some interesting marvels to photograph.

One thing to be aware of is how low temperatures are when photographing so we can dress appropriately. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable or get frostbite, now do they. The hardest obstacle I have found is keeping my hands warm and being able to operate the exposure controls of the camera. One way is to pre-set the controls to what you think they need set on. Since lighting can change in a few seconds, in minutes, or from one part of the day to the next, and I find it is difficult to judge that well ahead to not be fooling with the controls in the cold. I usually perform      

 Seedpod.wth.ICE.behind.Kys.Sheetz-0637-X3.jpg    this inconvenient task by wearing a pair of jersey gloves, and putting them on and then removing them to change exposure and focusing when needed, and pressing the shutter button. It is needless to say, being able to feel when you have pressed down part way to focus and be ready to shoot is hard when you can’t.  This is by no means executable if you’re out for half a day or more of shooting, especially if away from home, or your vehicle to be able to rewarm the hands and any other parts of the body feeling the effects of a bitterly cold day.  So far in most of my photographing winters wonderlands, I am usually close to home, or not too far from the car which made my method work as of now. I hope to be able to attend workshops and take trips into more secluded areas that might require a better, more efficient means of keeping my digits from getting frostbite. I ran across a pair of gloves that every winter, a snowbound photographer, and videographer should add to their arsenal of apparel for the colder months: a pair of gloves that allows a couple fingertips and your thumb to be exposed for easier manipulation of the camera controls.     


The next important things are keeping the feet and head warm, including face and ears. As we know we lose a lot of our body temperature heat from our heads, probably from all the worry, and creative thinking going on in our heads. All kidding aside, wool caps and socks are a must in extreme cold, or even mildly cold weather for that matter, if we are to be comfortable being out in it for a while. Good waterproof boots with thinsulate linings are the best way I know to keep the feet dry and warm. Actually, they are a good all year footwear for keeping the feet dry and supporting the ankles in all weather. 

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For our upper body a good nylon coat or parka with a hood is another must for staying warm, and being light weight helps with our mobility, endurance and comfortability on those  long fridged winter hikes. All The body warmth protective clothing helps even when we are just making the rounds in our own neighborhoods or around town. 

A fun thing I like doing is finding things close to home to take pictures of that can be fascinating, like icicles hanging off our apartment building. A technic I use for taking scenes of icicles is taking the shot a couple stops darker which brings out more of the detail and causes the background to either turn dark, if light is shining on the subject it may wash out or over expose the background causing the subject to stand out more while adding detail. Neat trick, huh. 

Take a little time to get the vitamin D you are probably lacking during these winter months by going outside and taking some masterpiece photographs. Exposing yourselves to the elements to take awesome winter scenes will not be as much of a problem when following the suggestions here, and checking out the article,”Big Air, Deep Powder” by William Sawalich, in Outdoor Photographers on-line magazine. I like getting Outdoor Photographer magazine in the paper copy by mail. The price is right, I receive it each month, and seeing the images of some really fantastic photographs at that size and in print is more satisfying for me than just on the web. They do have a website:           I browse through when I am looking for other articles to read, or am trying to see if they are having a new contest, and for the challenges. They have a lot of the reader’s photographs on the web each month.

Respectfully, @Tony Ballas

Getting a Feel for Black and White Photography

Black and White Photography is well and alive and can be very satisfying. It takes a different way to think. It is a type of Translation where you look for Light and Shadows, then Contrast and Texture, and finally Tonality. Take a look at the “Lady in Black” image and compare it to the color photograph! Turning color scene into a black and white scene by looking at these elements turn color into lights, darks, and textures that bring a different dimension and gives a totally different feel to an image. After looking at the color image it is fairly dull and lacking something. “What you see is what you get”. There is also a lot can be manipulated in editing software to add touches to an image to help your viewers see what you saw. Not unlike the Darkroom used in film photography, the digital darkroom allows you to give a photograph the feel and look you want it to have. Translating what you see into a black and white may take some practice to get the hang of but the rewards can be awesome. You get to images for the price of one.      I  am learning that the more different modes or types of photos I think make life more interesting and fulfilling, along with making me a better photographer in all other areas of the art of photography. and improving my skills makes me more versatile. Helps me get more fun out of it all too. Look at some color images you’ve already taken and read them and imagine what they might look like in black and white, then convert them to black and white in a photographic editing software and see what you can create. Take a little time to play with some of the other adjustments to get the photograph you imagined it would look like in black and white. Take notice to shadows, tonal changes, and textures in your original image and you will have a nice surprise when you do the conversions a few times. You might find another way to look at photographing pictures you had not tried before. You may even find it really satisfying and rewarding like I have.

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