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Snowy winter scenes are notoriously difficult to photograph due to the challenges of exposing correctly for the bright white snow. In Automatic mode, the camera can become confused by the whiteness of the snow, and underexpose the rest of the image. Many digital compacts feature a Snow scene mode that, once selected, will automatically adjust the camera settings to a level suitable for snowy scenes.
However, a scene like this one has its own specific challenges, not least of which is the fact it is taken at night. The simplest way to counteract under-exposure is to switch to Program AE mode and adjust your EV compensation. By increasing it to somewhere between +0.3 and +1.0 EV, the camera will slightly overexpose the photo, lifting the background and making the snow whiter.
In this shot, the glow of the tungsten lights adds an orange hue to large parts of the image. Some may think this detracts from the effect of the white snow, but in this image it adds a warm and cosy sense of place to what is anyway an urban scene. Again in Program AE mode. you can select a ‘tungsten’ white-balance setting to counteract this if desired. Finally, attaching a fish-eye lens to your digital SLR camera creates the fish-bowl effect shown here. If you’re not an SLR photographer, a similar distortion effect can be applied afterwards in most good image-editing packages, such as Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro.
Please refer to the image above for the following number references.
The sky isn’t completely black thanks to the glow of the streetlights, but it would still be underexposed if you didn’t adjust your EV compensation upwards. The result is a photo that doesn’t suffer from extreme contrasts as badly as it otherwise might.
Creating the right balance to avoid overexposing the streetlights or =underexposing the night sky is tricky. However, in this case it’s worth slightly overexposing to get the full effect of the streetlights’ glow on the rest of the scene.
The stairway in the foreground of the image is more than just a convenient photo-vantage point. Its central position also acts as a measure of perspective for the person viewing the image, adding depth to the photo and leading the eye towards the snowy centrepiece.
Using an extreme wide-angle fish-eye lens creates the extreme barrel distortion in this image. It makes it possible to see the image in a wider context and also directs the reader’s eye toward the main subjects in located in the centre of the frame.
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As a keen photographer for more than ten years, Matt is combining the two great loves of his life in taking photos and playing with new gadgets.
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