Tips for Photographing Snow - Choice of Film

Discussion in 'Travel' started by victor_hooi, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. heya,

    I'm going to Threbdo for 4 days next week (yay!), and I'm going to lug
    the Minolta 800si I just bought down there with me to play around
    with. I've also unearthed a cache of Ilford HP5 (ISO 100), and Fuji
    Film NPH (ISO 400). (btw, I am definitely not a terribly skilled
    photographer, and not that experienced either).

    Basically, I'm wondering what film I should use? Do snow-scenes look
    particularly good in B/W? Also, any general tips for photographing in
    snow? (One Sidenote: I'm scared the Ilford will be too slow - should I
    rack it up to 400, or will it not push very well? My lens is a 50mm
    1.7, btw.)

    I've read that I should over-expose by 1 to 1.5 f-stops - does this
    still apply for the Minolta's honeycomb metering? They're both
    negative films, how much should I OE by exactly do you think? How
    about for a compact digicam? (Canon S50, which I might also bring
    down). Or should I use spot-metering on faces, or something simlar?
    (Not sure if this would be too slow for me...I might be taking
    pictures of friends skiing/snowboarding).

    Finally, the snow won't have any effect on the camera's AF, will it?
    I'm thinking I should probably pre-focus for skiing/snowboarding, but
    I don't think I understand them both well enough to anticipate and
    judge where the skiier/board is going to be going next - any tips from

  2. I can't tell you what film to use. I might suggest not using Slide film, though, because of the extreme contrast.
    If you are using color negative film, and you want the snow to be properly exposed (white, but with some detail) the snow should be 2-3 stops over what the meter suggests.
    With a digicam, the snow should probably be 1.5-2 stops "over exposed". However, what your camera recommends as a proper exposure depends on the composition of the scene and the metering method. If, for example, you have a darker object at the points in the scene that are more heavily weighted for metering, the snow may not have that much of an effect on the meter's suggested exposure.
    The safest thing to do is to spot meter all the areas of your scene that you care about. Set the camera at what you think the exposure should be. Then, meter the snow and see if it will be blown out (or even under exposed). Check your dark areas to see if they will be dark, but not blocked up.
    Have fun on your trip. :)
  3. Snow: it won't hurt a thing to use a medium yellow filter for black-&-white film. Meter off your hand, then bracket towards over-exposure. If the light is right, you will get great results.
  4. jbq


    Metering off a gray card would be a good idea.

    In sunlight, sunny/16 is also a good starting point (beware that if you want detail in the dark trees in the shade you'll have to expose a bit more).

    Depending on how your meter works, you may or may not need to apply exposure compensation. Nikon's matrix metering recognizes situations where you're shooting snowy landscapes in the sun and applies some correction for you.
  5. The methods suggested for your SLR are all tried and tested. I would just add that you could look for a middle grey part of the scene and spot meter off that. In many ways it can come down to what you feel most comfortable with.

    If there is a particularly good scene you want be sure of then bracket your exposure - pretty easy on the 800si.

    Also remember that for extra flexibility you can easily do a mid-roll rewind on the 800si.

    Good luck.
  6. All of the Ilford HP5+ film I have seen is ISO 400. FP4+ is 100.

    Living in Alaska, I get to take snow pictures about 9 months a year :) B&W IMHO looks better much of the time.

    In my experience, manual metering works best for snow scenes. "Over-expose" by 1 stop if there are many trees in the image, and 2 stops if it is mostly snow. Or if the sky is blue, meter off the northern sky, which is the same brightness as middle-gray.
  7. Thanks to everybody for the great replies - mostly all on metering *grin*, but definitely a lot to think over.

    However, does anybody have any advice on which film to pick, the BW or the colour?

    Also, any tips for pre-focusing and anticipating motion/position in skiing/snowboarding?

    (John: Thanks for pointing it out - HP5 is indeed ISO 400, accidentally mixed it up with Delta 100).

  8. Going back to the original question. I live in Sydney, Australia and I'm not that much of a photographer so I don't know that much about snow and/or photographing it.

    But judging from previous photographs I've seen taken I much prefer the look of the colour to the black and white.

    By the way, have fun on your trip.

    =) Karina.
  9. using slide film for snow even in very bright conditions with a polariser is fine. When skiing at New Year this year, I simply metered either from trees if they were in sun, or more reliably of the back of my hand. No bracketing but remember to take account of the polariser!! (-2 stops!)

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