We just got another round of snow in Colorado yesterday, and a few weeks ago I was in an Alaskan snowstorm photographing eagles. Snowstorms are terrific for photography; they add an atmospheric element that creates mood and uniqueness to a shot. Here are a few ideas about photographing in the snow.
First, make sure your lens hood is attached. Lens hoods help keep snow off the front element. When I shoot my 600mm with its enormous hood in a snowstorm it is not uncommon to collect almost an inch of snow in the front of the hood. I just brush it out and keep shooting, the snow never gets to glass element. Also, make sure you don’t aim your lens up high or snow will get onto the front glass.
Next, use a rain cover. I really like ThinkTank raincovers…the Emergency Rain Cover is great for my smaller setups, and the Hydrophobia works awesome in a blizzard with my long glass.
Now, decide on what shutter speed you will use. This is really important. Personally, I like fast shutter speeds to freeze the snow in place. The eagle at the top of this post was taken a 1/800 producing diamond like snow flakes. Slower shutter speeds will blur the snow…this might be something you want to try, but 9 times out of 10 I like to freeze the snow in midair.
Choose dark backgrounds. The snow will stand out more on dark backgrounds. Light colored backgrounds and gray sky will make the snow disappear in the shot.
If it is really snowing hard, autofocus may not work well. In these cases, just go to manual mode. The last thing needed? Motivation to go out and shoot in the blizzard! But if you are prepared, the images can be magical.