Photography and Art

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Joys of Winter Photography

I really like taking photographs in the winter. The light, especially in the morning and evening, can be lovely and reflections on ice and snow give it a whole new dimension. Sunrise and sunset are closer to the middle of the day, so you don't have to get up at 5 am to photograph a sunrise. The best part about winter photography is the distinct lack of crowds. You rarely meet tourists in Toronto and vicinity in January and photographers are even rarer.

I just posted a tryptych of winter sunrise photographs in Pbase and here's brief description of the circumstances:

Sunrise on Lake Ice - Haliburton

We were spending New Year's at our cottage near Haliburton, about 150 miles north of Toronto. It was bitterly cold, but the sky was clear and I awoke to find a lovely golden glow on the horizon. I grabbed my camera, put on my woolies and walked along the frozen shore of the lake until I came to a spot that had some interesting rocks and ice in the foreground. I waited patiently for the sun to rise above the horizon and took this shot with a wide angle lens (17-40 mm) and lots of depth of field. The wide angle lens caused the sun ray effect. I did a bit of post-processing in Lightroom to bring out the reflections in the ice.

Sunrise - Shore of Lake Ontario

It was one of the coldest mornings of the year. The thermometer said -20 C and the wind was whipping. But, the sun was shining and as I made my way down the Don Valley Parkway on the way to work, I noticed a bank of clouds over the lake to my south. Thinking that there might be some interesting mist rising from the lake, I drove into the Toronto Harbour disctrict and went to the beach at the end of the harbour road. As you can see, there were interesting ice formations on the shore as well as a bank of clouds and mist sitting over the lake. On this shoot, I had the company of another photographer. He was dressed in a full snowmobile suit and I was in a leather jacket and light pants, so he was obviously better prepared. We both waited for the sun to rise and illuminate the clouds. He was comfortable, I was frozen, but we both waited patiently. The sun rose as expected and the clouds lit up. I snapped a couple of hurried shots with a wide angle lens and lots of depth of field and ran as fast as I could back to my car to try to get some circulation into my frozen fingers.

Sunrise - Farmer's Field near Collingwood

This past week-end, we were skiing in Collingwood, a small town two hours north-west of Toronto. Saturday was very cold and windy, but the forecast for Sunday was for clearing skies and warmer weather. I woke around 7 and put on my full ski gear in anticipation of a photo opportunity. On our way back from town the previous afternoon, I'd spotted a farmer's field with straw bales sitting out in the snow. It presented a rather forlorn scene raising the question as to why the farmer hadn't had time to take in the bales. I drove out to the field in the morning, put on my show shoes after parking in a nearby laneway and walked out to the field. The wind was howling and snow was blowing all around. My footprints were covered in almost as soon as I'd made them. Fortunately, the temperature was up around the freezing mark or I would have packed it in. I waited among the bales for the sun to illuminate the clouds and the snow. It didn't break through the clouds until much later, but it did light up the sky with a lovely morning glow. This scene was also captured with my wide angle lens. I used my new portable grey card (attached to my key ring) and it showed that the dawn light temperature was 12,000 - a value that I'd never have chosen unless I'd had the grey card for evidence. I also used the gradient adjustment in Lightroom to add some saturation to the sky and to bolster the whiteness of the snow. This is exactly as I remember the scene.

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