Thursday, January 22, 2009

Playing in the Snow

That dull thudthudthud noise you might have heard is me banging my little head against my desk as I read about gorgeous flower bed expansions in Florida, seed potato purchases in England and sunshine in Tennesee. Here in Oakville, Ontario, it appears it is going to be the first time in 140 years that we are not going to have a January thaw. (Is that a big white bear outside my window?)

Well, misery loves company and there's nothing that makes you feel better faster when it's freezing cold, than to receive a letter from a good buddy who lives in Thunder Bay (on the north shore of Lake Superior, home of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") - good old northern Ontario - not Oakville wussy -17C (1F), but stupidly cold -42C (-44F) at high noon. So darn cold that the snow squeaks when you walk on it. So cold you almost think twice about sending out your two boys to play in the snow. Her message was short...her sentences were pared down to basic nouns and verbs. "Have cabin fever" "Hibernating for most of the Winter" "Ready to start eating my young" "Tried to send them outside" "Can't move with all their gear piled on."

So, sitting here with turtleneck sweater and short vest, feeling positively southern Ontario tropical at the moment. Figured out a new method to reduce my photos sizes en masse - so I'm fine until the next Windows update.

I'd been looking around various gardens, specifically at things that provide good winter interest. The problem I had was with my digital camera, trying to get a good representation of what things really looked like. When I was shooting black and white film in the dark ages - in order to get as much information on the film when I was shooting snow shots, I'd open up 2 stops more than my light meter suggested - in essence I was overexposing the film, but giving myself something to work with in the darkroom. If I didn't do this the camera would adjust itself to the blinding white snow and make everything else in the shot too dark.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon the "Snow" feature on my Canon PowerShot S80 and wondered if it might hold some of the answers to these too-dark-blue-snow shots. This was taken mid-morning and is a very good representation of what our plowed sidewalk looks like. (1/200 sec 4.0 ap.)

Here's some seed-heads left behind - again not bad, notice how the tones of the photo are warmer than we're used to seeing. Ok, so not bad so far, but there are exceptions - at a local parkette on the snow setting - just too washed out. (1/320 4ap.)

Better on automatic, but the red of the cornus is a bit too purple. (1/500 4.0ap)

Spinning around in the other direction I caught Kevin, again with the snow setting 1/1000 4.0ap.

At the end of the park - there's a little stream - those paw prints belonged to someones dog who looks like they went on a wonderful toot.
Now, here's a quandary - which one is better? (Interesting to see what happens to some ornamental grasses & snow....) (snow 1/160 4.0 ap)

or automatic? (1/250 4.0ap) There's that nice blue colour that makes me think of winter.

And one more - snow on the yew hedge - yup, that's a yew hedge. Automatic 1/1000 4.0ap

or snow setting 1/640 ap 4.0 - you really can see the texture of the snow in this shot.

And then these shots - this is a really big rock that is about to vanish - first on automatic 1/500

then on snow....1/130.

I think for the moment - since I don't play with Photoshop - I'm still going to have to take my glove off, hold it in my mouth, spin the dial, change the setting and take a couple of shots to see which one is better. And since it's only -17C, what's the big deal anyway?


Barbee' said...

Interesting: the visible difference between the settings. Enjoyed reading your friend's message; bless her!

Teza said...

Not being the photographer that I want to be, this was a wonderful lesson on the effects of setting and how it effects the composition. They are all wonderful pictures. It would be interesting to see how a photo would turn out in -44 degree weather, but have to assume nobody would be caught sauntering through the garden in such severe cold. Of course I have been laughing since happening upon the line from your friend's letter.....'ready to start eating my young! I am so glad that our weather allows for those tranquil escapes!

Crafty Gardener said...

All those darn dials and settings on cameras sure do make it hard to set when the temperatures are frigid and fingers go numb almost immediately. I've been playing with my camera settings too, wanting to get some good shots of the moon, sunrise and sunset. I'll keep working at it.

easygardener said...

I do see that there is such a thing as too much snow :-)
You must be desperate for some colour other than white.

Barbarapc said...

Barbee - feel quite guilty about all that whinging yesterday - it's a balmy +2 (34F) - feel like I've been reborn.
Teza: Frances' blog Fairegarden had a great piece not too long ago on garden photography - she was thinking about buying a new camera - and had lots of comparative photographs to study. p.s.I wonder if camera batteries work when it's -44?
CG: Would love to get a good moon shot too - think I need a much longer lense tho. I've fiddled with the "fireworks" setting for Christmas lights - wonder if that might work for the moon?
E.G. Unfortunately the next colour we see after a lot more white (still can here dear Grandma say, "March can be the snowiest month.") is brown, as the snow starts to melt and condense into a sad looking beige brown mess. However, days are getting longer and there's always my seed catalogues to give me hope.

Northern Shade said...

This is a nice look at camera settings for snow, which I've been having trouble with. Part of the problem is that the shadows are so long in my backyard at this time of year. I'm looking forward to the sun rising a little higher soon. When I was out trying to take some photos in -30 C, (and doing the quick mitten off and on balancing act) my battery kept shutting off after 10 or so shots.

Barbarapc said...

N.S. only 10 shots - that's brutal. That 13C makes all the difference. Although even with our relatively warmer temperatures here, we have to make sacrifices to save the batteries - my husband's friend turned his view screen off so that he had enough power for his zoom and rapid shot feature in order to capture some birds. I had an extra battery on the inside of my snow pants, under my snow jacket to keep warm incase I needed it - goodness knows how I thought I was going to fetch it and get it into the camera without sending something else into a snow bank.