Depending on your opinion of snow, those of us living in Lawrence either escaped a major winter snowstorm or missed out on a great photo opportunity recently.
When we do get snowfall in town, it results in excitement, maybe even giddiness, for our photo staff. Let’s face it: In this day and age of Xbox, Facebook and movie streaming, a lot of people don’t leave their house in the cold of winter.
But snow can push them out the door. Children want to sled, throw snowballs or build snowmen and parents usually join in the fun. It’s a good time to be a photographer.
To get the best out of your snow photography, here are some simple tips and techniques that have served me well over the years.
l If you’re attempting to photograph falling snow, especially those big, slow-drifting flakes, look for dark backgrounds. This will ensure that the white flakes will display prominently in the photograph.
When snow falls in this manner, I often search out the nearest dark background, like a row of evergreens or buildings. Then I photograph subjects as they pass through or interact in this field of view.
As an alternative, if you are already photographing an interesting subject during a snowfall, consider the environment around your subject and move to a position where you can frame a darker background behind the subject.
To further exaggerate the contrast between white flakes and a dark background, use a telephoto lens. The compressed telephoto view will make flakes appear larger in the frame in relation to the background.
l The reverse of photographing white falling snow against dark backgrounds is to search out darker subject material to contrast against a brilliant snow background.
In the one method I seek out snow as it falls, and in the other I make use of the snow after it has fallen and blankets the landscape.
A bright landscape of white is a great setting for silhouetting darker-toned objects or juxtaposing against brightly colored subject matter. The white snow-covered landscape becomes a canvas to frame my camera on and wait for a subject. Branches bare of leaves, fence rows and lone figures walking are some of the subjects that can stand out in stark contrast to a winter landscape.
Last winter, during a big snowstorm, I covered the accident scene of an overturned snowplow in the county. The snowfall was heavy, and as a tow truck slowly pulled the vehicle upright I took a photograph that captured the moment as well as the contrast of the blowing snow against the dark-colored snowplow. It easily conveyed a sense of being in the middle of a snowstorm.
As I headed back to the newspaper, the snow stopped and I began looking for subject matter to frame against the beautiful white expanse. Sure enough, out of a windrow of trees wandered five turkeys, searching for food in a farm field. Before they could run too far away (wild turkeys are extremely cautious birds, especially close to Thanksgiving), I photographed the dark profiles of the birds against the field of snow and a backdrop of snow-covered trees. I guess you could say this is the photographers’ version of the old Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder song “Ebony and Ivory.” So the next time we get a big snowstorm just look for situations of black on white or white on black for better harmony in your snow photography.