I recently heard someone say “there is nothing worth photographing in the winter”. The images that follow immediately came to mind so I decided to share them. The hardest thing about capturing images like this is the elements. Protecting yourself and your equipment has to be a top priority. Traveling alone in these conditions are dangerous and a bad decision. If a slip or a fall takes place you cannot relay on being able to reach your cell. Ok enough of that.
The ice and the owl both blend into the background. however each has a very different amount of contrast. The owl’s pale ivory base color is speckled over 70% of it’s body with a medium to dark brown causing a strong contrast which makes for fast and easy focusing. Important since its usually a moving target. Because the owl is searching for it’s meal it’s flying low to the snow so metering is very important. In evaluative/matrix metering the camera is reading the light from corner to corner and the depending on the sun angle the snow covered ground will throw off the meter causing the exposure to be too dark. I chose to set the camera metering to center weighted metering. This gives an approximate 2 to 1 priority of the center 40% of the viewfinder over the rest of the scene. Then the only challenge is keeping the flying owl in the center of the view finder. In this shooting style the moment is fleeting and there is no time to make expose adjustments when the owl chooses to fly. So setting the camera to AV, the metering to center weighted, the focus mode to AI servo and the the shutter to multi frames gives me the best opportunity to capture sharp well exposed images. Once the owl takes off the only worry I have is to keep it in the frame and nearest to the center since that is where the light is being read. One last thing, make sure the ISO is high enough to keep your shutter fast. Over 1/500 of a second for a raptor this size.
The ice curtains in most of the shots are the opposite. They are very even in brightness density and color. While not uniform in color, the strength or density of the color is very similar so in this case with no real dominant exposure density, I metered in the evaluative / matrix mode . The exposure in most of the ice curtain shots spans only 1 – 1.3 F-Stops so evaluative will provide me with a very workable exposure, especially when shooting in RAW. For a few of the cave looking images the was a greater span of exposure. At that point I metered about 1/3 under the highlights. It did make the shadows a bit darker than I would have liked them but any brighter and the ice itself would “blow out” with over exposure. In the film days we would fix this in the dark room by burning in the shadows, the same may occur in the digital darkroom where you have many more tools at the ready.
I hope you enjoy the images, please chime in if you have any questions about technique or equipment. If you want to learn more about photography I am hosting a workshop April 11-13 in the Shawnee National Forest. For more information check out WORKSHOP and enjoy the videos as well.