Winter Weather

expert advice camera header_winter_weather

Firstly congratulations to Andrew Fletcher for winning January’s ‘Indoors’ photo challenge competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of March, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 28th Feburary to be in with a chance of winning!

This month’s article and the related Photo Challenge take for a subject, perhaps predictably, the Winter Weather. So, it’s time to put on your thermals, a hat, gloves and scarf, and your heaviest coat – then get out there with your camera!

The last thing I want to do is put you off – please have a go and send me your best shot for the chance to win a great prize. However, I admit that when Panasonic suggested this subject to me for a shoot, I initially thought to myself, this should be pretty easy to do! The best laid plans and all that…

I quickly had a list of scenarios in my head, many involving wintry rain – because, yes! Rain can be beautiful! – but it never seemed to rain at a time when I was free to shoot. I’d imagined the rain stair-rodding down and bouncing off car roofs, people sheltering under colourful umbrellas and so on. Some good compositions. No dice.

Luckily for me, we had a couple of cold, frosty mornings – one of them with fog as well. Proper wintry and too good an opportunity to miss – though it meant getting up and out at the coldest point of the day! So, this means all my shots here were taken just after dawn – when the light, if you’re lucky, can be really marvellous, reflecting in a frosty white landscape.

I used my LUMIX GX7 fitted with the 14-42mm G Vario lens for all my shots shown here this month. The camera was set to shoot in RAW as usual, with AWB (automatic white balance) and the ISO set to 400. I post-processed all the shots in Photoshop, but mostly my aim was to take full advantage of that early light to achieve the shots I wanted ‘in camera’ – which is best practice or at least an ideal to aim for.

The art of post-processing is, essentially, to know just how far to go to improve your shot, but no further. I see way too many over-processed shots – you know the sort of thing I mean, with far too much HDR-style (high dynamic range) effects applied to them. I am sure you’re often tempted to go too far – but you need to ask yourself, every time, am I really adding anything to this shot?

With so many tricks and such clever software available to the modern photographer, it is all too easy to get carried away. This month’s Winter Weather theme is as good a place as any to look at the dangers of excess vs. getting it just right. To this end, as you can see, I have included a straight shot and a processed shot of some of these frames.

Quite apart from the advantages and pitfalls of modern digital photography, it’s always been the bottom-line truth that good shots are all about good composition – so don’t just ‘snap’ a scene! Try a lower viewpoint, then a high viewpoint and so on. Always be experimental and go into any shoot, every shoot, with some vision in your head.

Best of luck! Since I took my shots and first planned this article, it’s got considerably colder and more wintry out there – so wrap up and enjoy yourselves, but get back into the warm safe and sound, please, with your camera and the knowledge of a job well done. Then, let’s see the results… choose your best shot and send it in to me. I look forward to going through them all – in the cosy warmth of my home!

Shots 1 & 2

Lumix Winter_001

Lumix Winter_002

This is a close-up of an area of frost on my car’s windscreen after it was parked outside overnight. Shot 1 is entirely ‘in camera’; then I have converted shot 2 into B/W in post – I do love a bit of monochrome and this seemed like an opportunity to do the subject justice with this easily achieved effect.

Shot 3

Lumix Winter_003

The same again – my car out on the drive, but this time we have just a close-up of the frost on the windscreen-wiper arm. I really like the graphic effect of this shot. No messing about required! What do you think?

Shot 4

Lumix Winter_004

A shot of an icy pavement – literally the ground under my feet. See? There is beauty and interest to be found everywhere if you look! I just moved a couple of stray pieces to simplify the composition. What everyday sight can you take inspiration in?

Shot 5

Lumix Winter_005

This was taken while I walking towards the river near where I live. It’s just a deserted, frosty street scene that caught my attention. Wherever you live – a village, a city centre, by the sea or a canal, or a motorway flyover – have a look at what the frost and the fog of the season adds to the scene and try capturing the moment with your camera.

Shots 6, 7 & 8

Lumix Winter_006

Lumix Winter_007

Lumix Winter_008

All three of these shots were taken during my frosty walk down the riverbank. Great early morning sunshine has combined with the frost to turn a scene which I know well into some really interesting views. Or at least I think so! What would you have done with this landscape?

Shots 9, 10 & 11

Lumix Winter_009

Lumix Winter_010

Lumix Winter_011

On a foggy as well as icy day, I saw the perfect conditions to shoot these wintery scenes. Again, this is familiar territory for me – I drive down this stretch of road a lot. So, I knew exactly where to shoot from when I awoke to find the conditions were right for the shots I was picturing.

The first of these is another one straight out of the camera, with no post-processing work. I think you can probably tell a raw image? For shot 10, I did a small amount of post, mainly the contrast and image sharpening, but also some localised shading here and there. It is worth the time and effort to get exactly what you were aiming for – but I like to think, with experience, I know when to stop!

Do you think that was all that was needed for this particular image, though? Because the final shot 11 is the same as number 10, but this time with a lot of clarity work, desaturation and some increased blacks added, too. I personally think shot 11 is as far as you should go in post processing… but now it’s over to you and your own judgement!

Happy shooting – Keep warm and enjoy yourselves.

Phil

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