snow

PHOTOS OF SNOWZILLA 2016

Placing a person in this photograph helps to show both scale and the dilemma of the pedestrian in the aftermath of the 2016 blizzard.

Placing a person in this photograph helps to show both scale and the dilemma of the pedestrian in the aftermath of the 2016 blizzard.

Sitting at my window watching the recent blizzard dump over two feet of snow on Arlington, Va., I found myself in a familiar internal debate; venture out while it is still snowing or wait until it has stopped.

This time, I waited for it to stop, mostly because it really was a blizzard, or as you may better know it as, "Snowzilla," which in my neighborhood started at 1 p.m. Friday and didn't stop until 11 p.m. Saturday. It wasn't until Sunday mid-morning that I dragged myself out of the apartment in order to photograph the aftermath. 

Even by noon, many side streets had not yet been plowed. I like the light in this photo, people emerging from the shadows; while some streets are cleared, many remain untouched and unexplored.

Even by noon, many side streets had not yet been plowed. I like the light in this photo, people emerging from the shadows; while some streets are cleared, many remain untouched and unexplored.

I titled this photo "Whole lotta love." What originally caught my attention was the line of people waiting for the Whole Foods to open. Then this couple caught my attention and I loved that they were in their own world. I also like how they help to fill some space in the empty parking lot.

I titled this photo "Whole lotta love." What originally caught my attention was the line of people waiting for the Whole Foods to open. Then this couple caught my attention and I loved that they were in their own world. I also like how they help to fill some space in the empty parking lot.

What drew my eye to this scene was just how far-reaching and intrusive the snow was, even entering the parking garage that no cars had entered. I also like the symmetry of the opening and the splash of color from the poles.

What drew my eye to this scene was just how far-reaching and intrusive the snow was, even entering the parking garage that no cars had entered. I also like the symmetry of the opening and the splash of color from the poles.

I probably could have spent much more time with this scene, but the juxtaposition of dining al fresco just 13 hours after the blizzard ended tells a story about the Clarendon neighborhood in Arlington.

I probably could have spent much more time with this scene, but the juxtaposition of dining al fresco just 13 hours after the blizzard ended tells a story about the Clarendon neighborhood in Arlington.

This was the aftermath of a much larger snowball fight held at the Clarendon Metro Station. I clearly wasn't the only one who had a bit of cabin fever.

This was the aftermath of a much larger snowball fight held at the Clarendon Metro Station. I clearly wasn't the only one who had a bit of cabin fever.

HEADING OUT TO PHOTOGRAPH IN THE STORM

Snow showers in Valley Forge, Pa. The dark background gives the contrast needed for the snow to stand out.
Snow showers in Valley Forge, Pa. The dark background gives the contrast needed for the snow to stand out.  1/25 @ f7.0, ISO 400.
What is your first thought when you hear a forecast calling for snow? If your thoughts turn to photography, then this blog post is for you. And if you are still with me, then hopefully the five suggestions below will help you capture some unique photographs.

This post is not about capturing a beautiful snow scene after the snow has stopped, it's all about capturing the scene while it is still snowing. In fact, the heavier the snow, the better the effect will be and you will come away with something different and different is a good thing when it comes to photography.

Slow shutter speed caused the snow to streak.
Slow shutter speed caused the snow to streak. 1/5 @ f2.8, ISO 200.
1. Before anything, be sure to protect yourself and your gear. No photograph is worth destroying your camera gear or putting yourself in harms way. Most cameras today are weather sealed, but if it is really coming down you might want to protect gear with a rain jacket. Something like a Kata Rain Cover on the higher priced side or an OP/TECH Rainsleeve (2-Pack) on the lower priced end will work. Of course so will a large plastic sandwich bag.

2. Snow, especially snow showers will play havoc with your focus so set your camera to manual focus.

3. Select a scene with a dark background. The whole point of photographing while it is still snowing is so that the snow will be visible in the photograph and a dark background will give you the contrast needed for the snow to be a prominent feature of the photograph.

Same scene as above but the faster shutter speed gives a very different look.
Same scene as above but the faster shutter speed gives a very different look. 1/60 @ f2.8, ISO 200.
4. Choose the correct shutter speed to achieve the effect you want. A slow shutter speed will cause the snow to streak and give the scene a soft painterly effect. Too slow though and you might lose the snow altogether. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the snowflakes and you will achieve a whole new effect, almost like adding a noise filter. Of course, I'm not telling you anything you don't know, however, the point is to experiment and find just the right look.

While the slow shutter speed adds nice streaking snow, its not readily apparent because of the lighter background.
While the slow shutter speed adds nice streaking snow, it is not readily apparent because of the lighter background. 1/30 @ f5.6, ISO 200.
5. Be aware of your depth of field and how it affects the scene. A shallow depth of field will enhance the effect of your shutter speed selection. Be careful using a deep depth of field as you might with most landscape scenes since in this case having everything in sharp focus may actually block the scene, especially in heavy snow.

So instead of just heading to the grocery store for bread and milk the next time the forecast calls for snow, get your camera gear ready and plan on heading to your favorite landscape or urban location.

After that, experiment and let your creativeness come through.

MEMORIAL DAY - A PERFECT DAY FOR A PHOTO WALK IN DC

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is the newest addition to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is the newest addition to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
I know it is not the final Monday in May. This is memorial day with a small "m."

It started as a government snow day and it doesn't take much in the Washington, D.C., area for the government to shutdown due to weather, or even the threat of weather.

On these days the temptation is to stay inside, pour a second cup of coffee and just spend the day relaxing. Of course the other option is to grab a camera and take advantage of the weather and day off to get some unique shots. On this day, and after a text from a friend reminding me I should be out shooting, I decided to head downtown.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the final stop and by this time the sun started to come out and made for some interesting reflections in the still wet stone.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the final stop and by this time the sun started to come out and made for some interesting reflections in the still wet stone.
In the absence of a specific assignment, I like to pick a theme prior to heading out on a shoot. It doesn't mean I have to stick with the theme, but I find that it is helps to focus, otherwise I just walk around aimlessly with my camera and end up disappointed at the end of the day. So the natural theme I self assigned myself was to capture Washington, D.C., under a blanket of snow.

Now remember when I said earlier in this post that it doesn't take much for the government to shut down. Well this was the case and as I exited the metro at Foggy Bottom it was apparent that my theme was already melting away. There was NO snow.

The Lincoln Memorial was a good starting point.
The Lincoln Memorial was a good starting point.
With that idea out I decided to just start walking in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial and see what I could see and before I realized it, I found myself walking from memorial to memorial and it hit me, or more specifically a new theme came to light; memorial day. Not the most original theme of course, but if you are in Washington, D.C., you really are in the perfect place for this kind of photo walk.

Map shows the route I took to capture memorial photos in Washington, D.C.
The route I took from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I started at the Lincoln Memorial (A) and made a counter clockwise loop ending at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (E). Along the way I stopped at the Korean War Memorial (B), Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial (C) and the World War II Memorial (D).

Snow was the most apparent at the Korean War Memorial and somehow the most appropriate.
Snow was the most apparent at the Korean War Memorial and somehow the most appropriate.
There were very few people around and while I usually try and include people in my photographs, this day I concentrated more on the memorials themselves. I carried only my Fuji X100S and shot in black and white mode all day.

Even though there was no snow, or very little snow on the ground, everything was wet which made for some great reflections. Also as the day wore on, the sky cleared up and provided some nice light and cloud formations.

Just because the theme for the walk was memorial day, it doesn't mean other things won't catch your eye along the way.
Just because the theme for the walk was memorial day, it doesn't mean other things won't catch your eye along the way.
Give yourself an assignment or pick a theme to get started and get out there and shoot. Don't wait for a rainy day. But if it is raining, or snowing, all the better.

ARIZONA - FINAL DAY

I woke when the alarm went off at 3:15 a.m. with the goal of doing more star photography. A quick check of the night sky showed no visible stars. I'd say I was disappointed, but crawling back into the warm bed made up for that. Got out of bed again at 4:30 a.m. and still no stars but it was snowing. This was even better. Back to bed again.

I was dressed and ready to shoot by 6 a.m., only problem was that visibility looked like it might only be 100 feet. At first light I still couldn't see anything so I decided to just have breakfast and wait it out, since I wasn't going to leave Monument Valley when there was a chance to capture some snow photos.

A Yucca plant in Monument Valley, Ariz., during a mid December snow.
Yucca plant in Monument Valley.
Finally went out around 8 a.m. and while visibility was still limited, I was able to shoot some detail shots. For a brief moment I thought I would get a break when the bottom of Mitchell Butte was visible, but the fog quickly settled back in. After two hours I returned to the hotel, checked out and waited patiently in the lobby.

The fog clears to reveal Merrick Butte in Monument Valley, Ariz.
The fog clears to reveal Merrick Butte.
First glimpse of the Merrick Butte through the lobby window came around 11 a.m., so I grabbed my gear and quickly ran to get in position. Visibility came and went, first revealing most of Michell Butte, but want really caught my attention was when I started catching glimpses of just the top portion of the West Mitten.

The West and East Mitten become visible as the fog clears after a mid December snow in Monument Valley, Ariz.
West Mitten and East Mitten.
It was constant shooting for the next hour or so as the fog came and went and more of more of the valley came into view. As the wind picked up it wasn't long before most of the fog had cleared. I knew I had about a five hour drive ahead and figured it was about time I got on the road.

Fog clears from Monument Valley after a mid December snow.
Mid December snow in Monument Valley.
During the drive south to Payson, Ariz., patches of blue began to appear in the sky and before I knew it there were these amazing cloud formations. I kept wanting to pull over and was desperately looking for something to put in the foreground. Finally I saw some interesting rock formations by the side of the road and thought they would make a good excuse to photograph the clouds. Those photos came out fine, but as I turned to head back to the car, I noticed the clouds that had been behind me were far more interesting, so I framed up a simple composition and made the final image of this trip.

Dramatic clouds in Arizona.

Hope you enjoyed joining me on this photographic adventure as I talked about planning the trip, the gear I was bringing and the daily updates while on the road. Check back after the holidays for posts on my first time shooting the stars and what I learned photographing in Upper Antelope Canyon and more.