Continuing my snowy themed posts I thought I would have a look this time at creating ultra minimalist landscapes during these winter conditions. In some ways photographing in the snow is unique and can lead to photos that cannot be produced in any other conditions and these minimalistic are an ideal example.
I find that in order to create a ultra minimalist image you need to be at one with the landscape, I know that may sound a little meta physical but essentially you need to be in a relaxed frame of mind with a single focus… to create a minimalistic photo. I find that these photos depend upon the location and quite deserted locations away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities help my mind relax and start thinking about this kind of image.
As per my last snow related post the best conditions are heavy overcast days which leads to flat featureless snow without shadows and imperfections which is an ideal starting point for this kind of ultra minimalistic work.
The photo above was taken in Japan in the middle of winter with a good few feet of snow on the ground, I was drawn to the shear simplicity of this shot with the grey sky and snow indistinguishable from each other and just the bold lines of the trees running across the hillside. It was even better that the trees came to a point creating a triangle across the photo. The photo just contains two elements, the trees and the surrounding snow and sky that appear to be the same thing.
The second example above was taken near home and again the conditions were ideal although quite different to the first photo from Japan. A heavy brooding sky was considerably darker than the snow covered foreground almost inverted from what the scene would appear like without the snow. I created a composition that was as symmetrical as I could get it with the tallest part of the snow covered hill in the centre of the frame. I played around with the ratios of snow to sky but felt a third of the shot being light snow and two thirds dark sky balanced well.
The final image above was another one produced in Japan and was in the middle of a blizzard, it was incredibly difficult to even keep the lens free of snow, fortunately the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens has a rather large hood that is ideal to keep snow (and rain) off the lens. The wind was howling and it was probably about 10 degrees C below zero so it was not the nicest conditions I have photographed in, in fact I framed the shot on live view and took one shot a stop over from the metered reading and dived back into the warmth of our 4×4. This is the benefit of knowing the characteristics of your gear inside and out so you can work quickly and capture the shot before Hyperthermia kicks in
With the snow starting to fall again here in the North of England I thought it was the ideal time to put up some posts about photographing in a snowy winter wonderland.
One of the questions I often asked is “how do I record the snow as a pristine surface with no shadows, foot prints, bumps lumps etc?”. Well you’ll be pleased to know there are no tricks to it and nothing to do with Photoshop it all depends on the light and the quality of the light.
My absolute favourite conditions to photograph in are usually late in the day and when there is a fully overcast sky, the stormier the better. On a fully overcast day there are no shadows cast and this is the simple secret to getting the smooth flat snowy surface, in fact if there is any light sources illuminating the snow, whether the sun or a street lamp it will create shadows due to the lumps and bumps in the snow.
Another consideration is the aperture used and even the height the photo is taken from. Most of my snow photographs are taken with the tripod at head height and a generally shot at a wide aperture such as f2.8 or f4, focussed on my point of interest such as a tree. I do this for a number of reasons… as the camera is higher off the ground the fine detail in the snow is not visible due to the height and the wide aperture ensures that there is a softness on the objects closest to the lens. The opposite effect would be shoot with the camera maybe 30cm of the ground and at f22, you would then see detail in the snow, although this is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
The photo shown above is taken just a few miles from my house so I don’t have to venture too far in the worst of weather to find some potential snowy subjects. The shot was taken about 15:00 so the light had already started to fade and with a dark stormy sky the conditions were ideal. I got the smooth white snow I was after and another effect I particularly like is the sky to be darker than the snowy
The second example above was taken again very near home and in easy walking distance irregardless of what the road conditions and weather are up to, I think during winter snowy winter conditions it is an ideal time to explore and photograph pretty much in your back yard, well at least a few miles in each direction.
This photo was actually taken on a nearby golf course that had various groups of trees that were ideal subject matter although I was really interested in these five saplings and how different each one was. It was already getting dark when I took this shot so I used a low vantage point to hide the lights from some houses a few miles away. The flat grey sky and the low light meant that the sky and the snow were the same brightness which allows a very minimalist image with just the stark silhouettes of the five trees to break up the high key scene.
The final example above was taken a little further away from home, in fact is was taken halfway around the world in Japan. The same rules apply as with the photos above, there was very little direct light from the sun although it did occasionally appear through the clouds so I had to wait until it was hidden in order to get the smooth snow effect. The sky was nice and overcast with a mixture of dark and light clouds which give a nice contrast compared with the smooth bright snow.
With all these photos each has a single point of interest whether a single tree or even a copse on a distant hill, the rest of the scene is almost empty just snow and sky creating a tranquil, peaceful result. Stay tuned for a update tomorrow where I look at creating ultra minimalist photos in the snow.