Well winter is off to a better start this year than last year, we have already had two really pretty snows. After what seemed like the extended Fall we had last year, I hope we continue to get some real winter-like weather this year – especially if it brings some much needed moisture to the area.
The day after our first snow I had the opportunity to head out into the Flint Hills north of Manhattan with a friend to photograph my first snowy sunset of the season. With the snow covering the hills, the soft evening light really showed off the unique contours and shapes of the Flint Hills. I’ve been to this area many times but this was the first time with snow on the ground and a sunny day. I normally don’t like to shoot on perfectly clear days, but seeing this view made me really glad to be out. The hillsides almost looked like puzzle pieces waiting to be put together.
The side-lit hills were off in the distance (on the far horizon) so I had to use a telephoto lens to photograph them. The photo above was cropped into a panoramic format, after seeing how good this looked I wished I had the foresight to shoot this as a true multi-shot pano. If the weather cooperates and provides me with another sunny day after a recent snow, I’ll be back to try my luck again.
After exploring the area for a bit we headed back to an area looking into a draw leading through the hills that lined up nicely with the setting sun. The patterns in the snow really caught the light and made for an interesting foreground. To capture them and the draw leading off through the distance I needed to switch to a wide-angle lens and set up in a low shooting position somewhat close to the top of the snow, which wasn’t hard to do in this particular spot since the snow had drifted here and was deeper than the surrounding area. Before I got into photography I would have probably never paid attention to how the light was showing off the patterns in the snow and how a draw through the hills led right into the setting sun. I’ve written before about trying to ‘stay in the moment’ which is always a balance for me when photographing (I can get lost in the technical side of things and the need to ‘get the shot’), I hope I never completely lose that fight and I’m always able to find a few moments to really notice what I’m photographing.
It was pretty darn cold out after the sun went down and I have to admit I was in a hurry to get in the vehicle after photographing the sunset but I did take a moment to make a few photographs facing off to the east. The sky had picked up a beautiful pastel color which is called the Belt of Venus;
the dark shadow under the pinkish colored layer is the shadow of the earth. I didn’t think these photos would turn out that well and I was cold (really cold) and I didn’t spend the time I probably should have with this scene-this turned out to be my favorite of the evening. I may not be as mindful as I’d like next time I’m out with my camera but I’ll probably dress warmer!
“Snow covered” – I used a telephoto lens on this shot to help “pull in” the distance hills and to try and isolate them from everything else. I cropped out about a quarter of the top and bottom of the original shot at 260mm, f/8, 1/200th, ISO 100, manual exposure mode, 0 EV.
“Patterns in the snow” – For this shot I wanted the patterns in the snow (wonder where I got the name for this photo?) and the shadows from the vegetation to show up but also the draw leading to the sun so I had to use a wide-angle lens. To make sure the patterns weren’t lost I used a low shooting position (kneeling if I remember right) with my 10mm lens at f/11, 1/50th, and ISO 100. Exposure mode was manual with 0 EV. I focused my lens at its hyper focus distance to get the depth of field I needed, but not use any higher f-stop than was necessary (which I’ve been bad about in the past) to limit loss in sharpness due to diffraction. I bracketed my exposures expecting to need to use multiple exposures to capture the dynamic range of this scene but found when I got home I didn’t need to do this, I was able to retain get the results I wanted with some simple highlight adjustments to the single RAW exposure.
“Winter Twilight” – This was a bit of hurried shot (hey I was cold!) with my lens set at 22mm, f/11, 1/4th, and ISO 100. Exposure mode was manual with 0 EV.