snow

All posts tagged snow

It’s a season everyone is looking forward to. Especially when you live in a country like Finland, where you’re digging your Life through 5-6 months of snow every year. And that’s Southern Finland (let’s not start about going up north).
And yeah… Finally, after many, many months it really does look like spring’s on its way (save for the snow that’s coming down as I write this).

Spring always comes with surprises. The worst part of the snow melting is all the dog poop that is surfacing and accompanying it the foul smell of it. I could go all into detail and describe to you the gooey… but no, I won’t.
A little colorful flower, which has had the power to withstand the weight of the snow that’s been piled up for way too long, and is now breaking the surface of the snow like the hand of a zombie trying to get out of the soil.
Cars that have disappeared under piles of snow with the winter ongoing, and the snow plows shoving all the snow off the street to the side.
And yeah… It can thus happen, that that big pile of snow looks exactly like… well… a big pile of snow. And a snow plow doesn’t really feel the difference when it piles up more snow, and maybe pushes it a bit further off the street and a bit further toward the pavement.

And yeah… If you happen to be the owner of such a car, and you don’t use your car during winter, then it could just happen that your car actually DOES disappear under said pile of snow.
And yeah… If the snow then melts, and your car happened to have been disguised as a pile of snow, you might just be in for a nasty surprise when the snow melts and your car peeks it’s battered head out of the snow…

Demolished mini van

Demolished mini van

Demolished mini van

Demolished mini van

… before we go to the nice and warm Philippines…

I’ll make this an exposure 101. If you’re a pro-photographer you already know this (or at least, you should! 😉 ), but I’ve been asked about this a couple of times and I decided to do a simple, little write up about it, without getting into too technical language.

Why is it important to take (manual) control of your camera?
A lot of people, especially those who have just bought a camera or have just gotten into photography, use the automatic settings in the camera. In most of the average cases that would be just fine, but since a camera is just a thing, with no obvious intelligence, when things get out of average, the picture goes south as well.

My camera is set (in 95% of the cases) to full manual with spot metering. I prefer spot metering above all other settings, because I get to pinpoint a location in my frame for which I decide what exposure is the best one, based on the initial suggestion of the light meter in the camera.
The other metering methods are also working fine, but don’t just blindly trust the values the light meter in your camera shows you.
What you need to know about the camera’s light meter, is that it’s “calibrated” to assume that everything in your frame has an average hue. The light meter doesn’t see or read colors, it just sees light or dark. 18% grey may sound familiar to some of you, maybe not to others. But 18% grey is what the light meter thinks the average hue in your image is (or rather, should become). Green grass, for example, is about 18% grey, on a normal sunny day. So if you were to take an image of a sports field with mostly grass and you’d have your camera do everything automatically, you’d have a great picture with a perfect exposure. Of course there are plenty of other things that are -about- 18% grey. But what if you’re shooting somewhere where everything, or the bigger part of your frame, is NOT 18% grey?
If that were the case, and you have your camera set to automatic (or to manual, and you’d dial the exposure, ISO and/or aperture so that the bar sits nicely on the 0 in the middle), your camera will make everything 18% grey.

The perfect examples are in the two extreme ends of the light spectrum.
Imagine a winter landscape, with mainly… yep: snow. Snow is one of the purest, whitest substances on this planet (provided it’s not territorially marked by some inhabitant of this planet 😉 ).
So what would happen in the camera when I’d point it at my winter landscape? The meter sees the landscape and ‘thinks’: “Wow! That’s easy! A big frame full of 18% grey.” And so, thinking the purest white snow is 18% grey, the camera underexposes your image with about 2 stops.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/60 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/500 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

In order to correct this, and to get the right exposure for the snow, you’d have to manually adjust the exposure time either by dialing up it with up to two stops, or use the exposure compensation.

The same thing goes for the other extreme of the scale. When what you see in your viewfinder (or your Liveview screen) is primarily black/dark, the light meter will assume that this is 18% grey and will adjust –overexpose in this case- the exposure to make the blacks look like 18% grey. You will have to underexpose the image to correct for the camera’s false assumptions.

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec  @ f/4, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

 

 

 

….. when you expect one thing, you get something completely different.

That’s what happened when we went out for a sunrise shoot a week or so ago.
The weather was a bit… weird. I knew that if it would be completely overcast, the way it looked the day before, I wouldn’t go, because it wouldn’t be worth it, really. But the forecast said it would be partly overcast, which would be good. So we went out, and…
Yeah, it was completely overcast. I knew already then that what I’d be shooting would be monotone only. But it was good that we went, because even on totally overcast days you can find nice things to photograph.

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

D800, ISO100, 1/2 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

(it’s funny how the color shifts when it’s rendered on the web. These images were all changed with the same setting in Lightroom, and look the same in full format. Here the hues are all over the map…)

Of course during the day the weather cleared up, and the clouds disappeared, bringing on yet another crisp and cold night.
I borrowed the Nikkor 300mm from a Buddy of mine (thanks Don!) and was presented with a good target in the early evening. Shot off the balcony of the apartment:

D800, ISO800, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 300mm + TC2 + TC1.4

D800, ISO800, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 300mm + TC2 + TC1.4

Tried to put 2 TC2s on top of each other, but that didn’t work. It’d require me to file off a piece of one of the TCs and that was a bit too much of the good 😀
I like the image as it is, though. It’s a lot crisper than previous moon pictures I once took with my old Sigma 170-500mm.

A snow storm always makes for nice pictures. Especially when you get to take the images from the relatively safe environment of your balcony and you get to see people struggling to get by from a distance… 😉

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

 

 

I can write loooong pieces of text about the landscapes.
They’re gorgeous. And they’re many. And they look different every day, especially when you have a sunny day one day and snow the next, and sun again the day after that.
Have a look:

Valley with a river running in between two mountain ranges

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

Yellow line dividing the road running off into the distance

D800, ISO400, 1/250 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 70-200mm, Nikkor TC2

Boulders on top of a mountain in Rocky Mountain national park

D800, ISO100, 1/30 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 14-24mm

Logs in the partly frozen water of a lake

D800, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

Dirt road leading into the fog and into the Rocky Mountains

D800, ISO100, 1/30 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Waterfall in a small stream covered with fallen trees

D800, ISO400, 1/4 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Water fall in a small canyon in Grand Lake in the Rocky Mountains

D800, ISO100, 8 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm, Singh-Ray VariND

Sunset over Grand Lake

D800, ISO100, 1/1000 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

After all the fuss with the cards and then the image theft, I finally got around to do something with my images.
I’ll spread it out over a few posts, so I don’t have to write everything in one go, and you get to take your time looking at the scenery 😉

The initial idea was that we were going to photograph the fall colors. But my Buddy had already warned me to take warm clothes, because the weather was turning around rapidly.
And so it did. I flew in to Denver late one night. We slept a night, and went for a ride in Rocky Mountain National Park, slept for another night and went back along the same route.
These were two completely different days. Two completely different worlds. It was both amazing and stunning. But I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Colorado River (as a baby)

D800, ISO400, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 14-24mm

And 24 hours later:

Colorado River (as a baby)

D800, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 14-24mm

Traffic sign without snow

D800, ISO200, 1/125 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

And 24 hours later:

Traffic sign after a night of snow

D800, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm

Our trip to Norway to shoot the Northern Lights was quickly on its way to turn into a big, expensive disaster. We had one more chance, one more night.
And it was a clear night. A beautiful night. A cold night. So nothing could go wrong, right?
Or so we thought…

We arrived at our destination, Ersfjordbotn, well in time. Just before sunset. We set up, and I shot some pictures of the setting sun.

Ersfjordbotn, Norway

D700, ISO200, 6 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Ersfjordbotn, Norway

D700, ISO200, 10 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 70-200mm

 

Ersfjordbotn, Norway

D700, ISO200, 30 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 70-200mm

And then the waiting started… In the end you of course never know. 80% is a good chance, but there’s still 20% chance to nothing. Slowly, with frustration, cold and a tickling bladder (not yet tRickling) creeping up on us it looked like we hit the jackpot with 20% of zilch. The arm and leg we paid for the trip to this country where everything seems to costs nothing short of fluid gold, was going to fly by with nothing to show for. At least not that what we set out for…

We shot a few pictures in the hours that passed (and hours they were, and stubborn WE were).

Ersfjordbotn, Norway

D700, ISO200, 1/6 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 14-24mm

Ersfjordbotn, Norway

D700, ISO800, 6 sec @ f/2,8, Nikkor 14-24mm

We got company from a few other photographers and it didn’t help our mood when one of them told us that the previous night had been spectacular over Tromsø. We had been sitting out in the cold for about seven hours waiting for the Lights to come, because it was supposed to have been overcast over Tromsø and clear where we are, and we went home empty-handed only to find out that we should’ve best stayed in Tromsø and we would’ve had a great show. But no…

In the end it doesn’t matter how stubborn you are, how eager you are, how patient you are… After sitting in the cold for another six or so hours we accepted our losses and packed up our gear and headed back home. Our newly acquired photographer-friend hitched a ride with us back towards town. And I’ll be damned… we were just over the hills when he shouts “Look there! It’s starting! Pull over!”
Sure as I’m sitting here writing this… the sky turned all green on us and it was dancing like there was no tomorrow.

Sure, you see it on pictures. And it’s beautiful on pictures. But when you see it for real, when you see it with your own eyes… It’s nothing short of breath-taking. Here’s a piece of nature phenomena which struck me silent on the spot. The first five-ten minutes we just stood there gaping at with mouths open. If it would’ve lasted for only that time, we still wouldn’t have had any pictures of it. But we at least saw it in its full beauty. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures. And I have pictures coming up. But I couldn’t possibly explain how it is to look at this in real life.

The only thing… Pictures are brighter. It doesn’t happen often that the pictures are more beautiful in terms of color, saturation and vibrance (unless of course you bump the sliders in post-processing), but the actual Northern Lights aren’t all that bright. They are very clear, and very visible, that’s not it, but the colors in the pictures, even in the unedited raw files, are so much deeper and saturated than what I saw with my own eyes…
Not that it takes away any of the awe that it gave me…

I’m planning another trip. I realize we pushed it in terms of time left before the climate changed too much for the chances to see the Northern Lights. Next year it’ll be early/mid February instead of end March.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

D700, ISO400, 6 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

D700, ISO800, 4 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

D700, ISO800, 4 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights

D700, ISO800, 6 sec @ f/2,8, Nikkor 14-24mm

(So yeah, the last one’s photoshopped, but that was because I was so frustrated and I so badly wanted to have a picture with the Northern Lights coming into that point where the mountains meet… I’ll get a real one of those next year 😉 )

 

So… That was a disappointment… Beautiful day the entire day, and everything down the drain because it turned overcast in a few hours.
Ok, maybe not everything down the drain, we did get some good pictures, but still. We didn’t get what we actually came for.
That called for another night on the town. We were back at the hotel around 23:30. And so it appears that IF anything happens in the city of Tromsø, it doesn’t happen before midnight. We went to the same place as yesterday, which was actually full with people. Not so different from Finland, I must add, since there were a good number of them well beyond there quota. It must’ve been an expensive night for them.

We didn’t make it a long night, since we had another long day ahead of us. Last chance, as we were homeward bound the next morning. The weather forecast was good according to several websites now. We woke up in our brightly sunlit walk-in closets and that set our moods in the right direction 🙂
Today’s route would lead us around Hella, Bakkejord (the area where the first boat pics are from), and Sommarøy back to Ersfjordbotn, which is a typical place where many people before us have shot the Northern Lights.

Hella, Norway

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 14-24mm

Near Sommarøy, Norway

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 70-200mm

Bakkejord, Norway

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 50mm. 180-degree panorama built from five images.

Near Sjøtun, Norway

D700, ISO200, 1/350 sec @ f/9.5, Nikkor 50mm. 180-degree panorama built from five images.

Near Sjøtun, Norway

D700, ISO200, 30 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 50mm, Singh-Ray VariND filter

Near Sjøtun, Norway

D700, ISO200, 20 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm, Singh-Ray VariND filter

After our first day of scouting we were sent to different bar, a place which was THE place to be on a Tuesday (!). Well… The place was positively buzzing with about 5 people. So after a few drinks we headed back to the hotel, tired from a long day of driving in the rain. We did check up on the weather forecast, never giving up hope that the trip to this godforsaken country, which was called The Paris of the North, where a drink costs you an arm and a leg, would be a total miserable loss. And guess what? Out of the 5 websites forecasting the weather for the Troms area one actually mentioned a clearing up for the next day. Of course with all our hope we fully believed that one website and with sunshine in our hearts we withdrew in our walk-in closets and called it a night.

Lo and behold… We woke up to patches of blue in the sky. We couldn’t believe our eyes!
Another day of scouting ahead, and bring out the sunglasses!
Tourist information told us we would better be heading east for the night, where the sky would be the clearest. Near Tromsø things would be clouded over come evening, so no use to stick around there. So off we went, in the direction of the Lyngs Alps, a mountain range east of Tromsø, topping just under 2000 meters. We drove all the way to the east tip of the island, to Breivikeidet, there where the ferry leaves to Svensby.
It was there were we set up “camp”.

Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm. A 180-degree panorama put together from 10 images.

We had plenty of time to kill before sunset and darkness, so we got acquainted with the area a bit.

The beach in Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/180 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

There was an actual beach there. I’m not quite sure how often per year you could actually lie on the beach this far north, but pretty it was. And the water… Shockingly clear…

The beach in Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/180 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50 mm

(I didn’t position them like that…)

Sea urchin on the beach in Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/8, Tamron 90mm macro

And some more landscapes:

Gletcher on the island of Svendby

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 70-200mm

My buddy spotted a totally unexpected guest when he was standing here: a seal! Unfortunately he didn’t manage to get a good picture of it and it took off too soon. I managed to only get a glimpse of it from where I was standing 🙁

My buddy Alan

D700, ISO200, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

And they had boats, too 😉

Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

Breivikeidet

D700, ISO200, 1/350 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 50mm

And while we were waiting for the darkness and the night to set in, which it finally did after us spending about six hours in the cold there, we saw happening what we were dreading already for a few hours. More and more clouds came in and what was supposed to be a clear night was about to go all wrong.

Breivikeidet / Svendby

D700, ISO200, 10 sec @ f/16, Nikkor 70-200mm

It ended up clouding over so much that we decided to get away from here and hoping we would drive towards some lighter skies.
On our way back, for just a brief moment, we thought we saw something over the mountain range, but we didn’t capture it on sensor. It might’ve just been our eagerness…

Somewhere along the way from Breivikeidet back to Tromsø

D700, ISO200, 15 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 14-24mm

So Norway… What a beautiful country…

The Troms area is supposed to be one of the best areas to view the Northern Lights. I’d never seen the Northern Lights in my life before, and it’s been on the top of my list for quite some time. Finally we made the decision and booked our trip. A 5-day stay in Tromsø was supposed to be opportunity enough to see the Northern Lights in an area where the chances to see the Lights are according to statistics, especially in this year and next year when the solar activity is at its highest in 7 years, close to 80%.

We kept an eye on the weather forecast and a week before departure things looked ok still. The closer we came to departure date, the bleaker things got. We checked several forecast websites and they pretty much all had a different forecast. Even the best forecast was still 5 days of overcast weather with rain, slush and snow.

We came in on Monday in the late afternoon. Needed to pick up the car and check into the hotel, so we didn’t have much time to do anything. Not that the weather would allow us much anyway, since it was raining cats and dogs.
We asked at the lobby of the hotel for a good place to go have a drink and got an address which was guaranteed buzzing on a Monday (!) night. With about 10-12 guys watching a football match, this place called Blå Rock Cafe, was absolutely thrilling *ahem* The food was good, though, gotta give ’em that.

Tuesday we went scouting. Forecast for this day (and the coming days for that matter) were dramatic, with more overcast sky, more rain, more slush and more snow. We were set to leave on Friday morning and according to the forecast Friday night was going to be the first clear night (of course!). We were silently talking about extending our visit to Saturday, but with Norwegian prices (fuel @ €2,10 per liter, €115 for a walk-in closet with a too short bed, €14 for a pint of beer), I tell you: NOT funny!
Anyway… Even if this day wasn’t the beautiful clear day, we nevertheless took beautiful pictures. Overcast sky and some foggy clouds can make for a great landscape.

We drove from Tromsø almost to Tromvik, but didn’t get out of the car much after the first 40 mins. It started raining so bad that one step out of the car would mean getting soaked. We had to make do with what we shot on the first stretch of the scouting trip.

Norway landscape

D700, ISO1600, 1/1000 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 70-200mm

Norway landscape

D700, ISO1600, 1/1000 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 70-200mm

Norway landscape

D700, ISO1600, 1/1000 @ f/13, Nikkor 70-200mm

Norway landscape

D700, ISO1600, 1/500 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 70-200mm