Winter Shooting Tips
by Laurie Brice
Believe it or not, spring is on its way. (About freezing time, right?) The weather will be miserable for the next two days but Friday may be our last chance to catch a winter wonderland in bright sun light. Later Friday night, we'll see a nearly full moon in a freezing, clear sky. So fellow couch potatoes, its time to find those boots, dust off the gear, charge the batteries and go outside to play.
- Charge two batteries. Load one in your camera. Keep the other in a warm pocket. Warm batteries hold their charge longer. Warming a run down battery may coax a little more power from it, at least until it gets cold again that is.
- Put your camera in a safe, dry place outside and let it acclimate to the cold before you start shooting. The car is a great place for this if you favorite parking spot is safe. Foggy lenses are not fun. Plan ahead.
- Put on your gloves! That camera is really cold!
You've heard this before we know but repetition and practice are the keys to learning. While shooting when ice and snow dominate the frame, your camera will attempt a mid-tone of 17% gray. That means the snow will be %17 gray. Your images will be under exposed. Try either of these tips to brighten your snow pix if they are too dark.
Method 1: Using Aperture Priority (A/AV) set your aperture and take the first shot. Use the +/- button (exposure compensation) to increase the exposure +. Take another shot. Still too dark? Use exposure compensation again to raise the light level. Repeat until you are happy with the exposure.
Method 2: Set your camera to Auto. Take a shot. Look at the image settings and remember the aperture and shutter speed. Set your camera to Manual and set the aperture and shutter speed as they were on Auto. You have the choice of increasing the amount of light for your next exposure by slowing the shutter speed or opening up the aperture, f/11 to f/8 for example. Or, you can leave aperture and shutter speed as they are and increase the ISO. Take your shot and review it. Still under exposed? Slow the shutter, open up the aperture or increase the ISO again. Repeat if needed. Just remember that as you increase ISO, noise will increase in your image.
Practice setting camera modes, shutter speed, aperture and ISO inside where it's warm and dry before attempting this in freezing temps.
Cold, dry air helps with clear night images. There won't be any of our usual humidity to blur your shots. Taking moon images when the moon isn't quite full, often reveals nice detail near the moon's edges. Try these steps.
- Use your longest lens and a sturdy tripod.
- Know when the moon will rise and set. Time your shooting. The time couldn't be better than Friday's. Sunset is at 6:03 PM and Moonrise is at 7:08. Look due East for the rise. The City Dock and the Navy Bridge should be super spots but cold.
- Mount your camera on the tripod. Extend your lens to it's longest length and then draw it back just a little. This often helps get a sharper focus
- Set your camera on full manual
- Set the aperture to f/8, the sweet spot for most lenses
- Set your camera to "live view" and focus manually while viewing the camera's LCD screen
- Now it's time to set the shutter speed. Start with 1/250 second.
- Review your shot and increase or decrease the shutter speed depending on the look you want.
You may be surprised at the quick shutter speed needed to capture details on the moon's surface. If on the other hand, if you want to show a moon-lighted scene like the one at the beginning of this post, you will need to stop down to f/16 and extend the shutter speed until the landscape details are revealed. Keep the ISO low to prevent introducing noise. Remember though, the moon is moving. Long exposures will blur due to the movement. Aim for the fastest shutter speed that accomplishes the look you want.
Go out and play. This is lots of fun.