Friday, February 8, 2013


Milwaukee had its biggest snow of the winter on Thursday.  We got about six inches in our neighborhood.  Frankly, not a whopper, but, since we really haven't had much snow this year, I wanted to take advantage of it.  Thursday afternoon it was snowing fairly hard, and one of the effects I decided to try to get was a shot that would capture individual flakes in the foreground, allowing the background to go out of focus.  The key to such a shot is to put the camera on manual focus and set the focus to an arbitrary distance that will capture a plane of falling flakes in the foreground.  The shutter speed also needs to be very fast to avoid turning the flakes into streaks.

Here is an early shot I took out our front window looking at our neighbor's roof.

Kind of an interesting shot.  I did manage to capture individual flakes, and I liked the diagonal lines of the roof, though the moisture draining off the roof appears a little funky.  I realized that one of the keys to such shots is the background, which is almost necessarily out of focus but needs to be representative and, hopefully, interesting in its own right.  To increase shutter speed, I significantly underexposed this shot and then brought exposure back up in post processing.  This shot had a shutter speed of 1/800th second.  I also converted it into a B&W.

Here is another shot that I took in the neighborhood, also at 1/800th second.

Here are some shots that I took from my car in front of the pond in our subdivision that is backed by a handsome stand of woods.  I know, I know, I'm a wimp for not getting out of the car with my camera, but with the snow coming down at such a heavy pace, I didn't want to get my camera soaked by the wet flakes.  In any event, here is a standard shot focused on the woods.

And here is a similar shot focused, instead, on the flakes in the foreground.

This last was taken at f/5 for 1/500th second.  I think the background is recognizable.

Here are a couple more shots taken with a vertical perspective, the first focused on the woods.

I actually liked this shot quite a lot.  And here is a second shot, focused (manually) on the foreground, that was substantially underexposed to increase the shutter speed to 1/250th second.

OK, so there are different evergreens in the two shots, but you get the point.

And here is one more shot of the woods I took when the snow was really coming down.

A close inspection of this image reveals a lot of complexity in the texture of the woods that is attributable to the snow between the camera and the trees.

In all of these shots the evergreen serves the important function of creating a point of interest.  I wanted to make sure that they were placed off-center in each of the shots.  I also thought it was important that the blanket of snow on the ground in front of the woods created a pure white base.

Finally, I was able to capture the following shot in a nearby neighborhood--again from the relative comfort of my car.

A few comments about the shot, which I like a lot.  First, I liked the three strong trees in the relative foreground that create a diagonal line of interest.  The line of trees in the left also add some interest, in part, because they appear faded by the snow in the air, creating depth.  They also help to give the shot balance.  The evergreen leaning to the left also adds interest, as does the small dark tree to the left of the largest tree.  I also kept the shot's overall exposure relatively dark and definitely in the cool color range, to create a sense of mood.  One minor drawback was the presence of a birdhouse close to the center of the image.

OK, so the next morning revealed that the snow was wet enough to cling to everything.  So I took my camera back out.  Here are a few more shots that I got.  First is a shot of the woods in front of our pond.

Quite a different look from the late afternoon before.

And here is a stand of trees next to our subdivision that had gotten plastered by the snow.

Finally, I made my way to nearby Virmond Park.  There I took a few shots of a dense stand of trees/shrubs.

I was lucky to get a shot that included an individual out for a walk in the snow.

I'm pretty sure she saw that I had snapped a shot in her direction, but when she walked by, she simply waved hello.  I was pleased with the resolution of these shots, which were taken with my telephoto zoom at f/8 and f/7.1 respectively.

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