Tackling the Elements
Overcoming the harsh shooting conditions
- Use a Tripod for stability.(do not let go of your tripod in 20mph+ winds)
- Use a fast Shutter Speed to freeze the motion of Foliage and clouds.
- Take two or more images of the same composition. One for the correct speed of the water. Another at a higher shutter speed to control the foliage. Use the ISO to increase your shutter speed and accomplish this result
Challenges with water include Rain, Dew point/Condensation, Slick Rocks, Reflection, Waterfall mist, Sea Spray, etc.
- Rain – Use a waterproof sleeve for your Camera and Lens. Sometimes a hat or towel can substitute in a pinch. Lens is capped until shoot time.
- Condensation – Occurs at the Dew Point. Water droplets form on a cold surface when humid air comes in contact with it. Using Hand Warmers wrapped around the exterior of the Lens can help to control the moisture. This is particularly helpful in Astro and night photography. And, can be helpful on cool, rainy days photographing waterfalls. When the lens is capped to control the mist, the lens can fog over. Using hand warmers on your lens can help control this.
- Slick Surfaces – When photographing waterfalls, slick surfaces are abundant and have caused unnecessary harm and death. Not to mention the costly mistake of your camera equipment taking a plunge. Taking a few precautions here can lesson the chance of personal injury and equipment loss. Try using your Tripod extended or a hiking stick for better balance when wading through streams. Hip and Chest Waders can help you navigate wet surfaces quite well. I prefer wet wading boots with felt soles.
- *Note – Using felt bottom boots is discouraged in some parks due to bacteria and algae being transported to other ecosystems. There are several methods that can be used to treat your felt bottoms to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Felt bottom soles have been outlawed in some states, so be sure to double check your shooting location for updated information.
- Reflection/Glare – Can be controlled using a Circular Polarizing Filter. A Polarizing Filter can also add 1-2 stops of additional time to your shutter speed and can serve to enrich the color of your image.
- Sea Spray/Mist – Starting back from the Falls or Ocean, adjust your Camera settings to an appropriate exposure. Carefully approach the water with your lens capped. Uncap you lens for one shot. Depending on the severity of the spray, either retreat to clean and assess or spin the Tripod head for a quick cleaning and adjustment.
- Neutral Density Graduated Filters can be used to knock down the brightness in the sky, bringing the exposure to a more even balance, serving to also brighten the foreground. Usually a .3(1 stop) or .6(2 stop) will do the trick.
- Taking multiple exposures(of the same shot) can also reclaim overly bright and dark areas within the frame. The images can then be taken to Photoshop stacked as layers. Use Masking to reveal detail in the dark or blown out areas. This is known as “Exposure Blending”
- When shooting at or close to direct Sunlight, this can create Light Flares. Set up on a Tripod, take a test image to reveal the severity of the Light Flare. Next, take your thumb or forefinger and drop it in the least intrusive side of the frame. Usually from the top corner will work. Cover the sun with your thumb and you will notice the majority of the Flare will disappear. Take these images to Photoshop stacked as layers. Mask out the Light Flare by masking in the controlled image.
Ice and Snow
- When preparing for your Winter shoot, always plan your destination carefully.
- Know your route, is it accessible in harsh weather conditions.
- Note the change in altitude to your destination. This can cause a dramatic shift in the weather, including deeper snow, falling temps and high winds.
- Always pack an extra gear bag, to include back up everything. There is a good chance you will get wet on this journey. If the conditions are severe, consider packing a sleeping bag in your car/truck as part of your survival pack.
- Always tell someone what your doing and where you are going. Make sure your phone is fully charged.
- Use insulated, performance clothing that will allow you to move and work while wicking moisture away from your skin.
- Fingerless Gloves, Balaclava, insulated acrylic socks, Thermal base layer, Facemask, goggles, Gaiters, Synthetic or Down mid layer, Gore Tex Outer Shell, Handwarmers, Gore Tex Full Leather Boots and Ice Cleats are all standard in my winter gear bag.
Other factors that are pertinent to ensuring you have a safe and productive trip.
- A good, reliable headlamp. I use the Black Diamond “Icon”
- Always check the weather(using multiple Weather Apps) leading up to your trip. Always double check the weather on the morning of your trip. The micro climates change at higher altitudes without warning. Be prepared for the worst.
- Apps I use include: Photographer’s Ephemeris, Wunderground, Stellarium, NOAA,
- Travel with someone
- Ensure your transportation is reliable.
- Never take unnecessary chances while driving or in the backcountry.
- Use Hiking Poles for increased stability and protection.