The weather outside is frightful, but the sights are so delightful—forget family woe, fake mistletoe, enjoy the show. It’s a great time of year to explore the forests, deserts and mountains, but bring your camera. You never know what you might witness.
The whitetail doe in this picture was passing by when I ventured out during a light snowstorm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It was on a mission to either find dinner or bunker down for the night. It vanished fast. Had I buried my Canon 5D MkIV in a backpack, I’d have no photographic proof of the brief encounter.
Keep that phone or camera at hand, preferably in it. Wear gloves and, depending on what you’re carrying, insulated touchpad-capable may be the best choice.
There’s no shortage of professional photographers offering tips for capturing quality wintertime images. My advice would be the same, more than likely, so I’ll just add some details on my photo of this whitetail—and an observation that makes it obvious this photo could have been taken with a smartphone.
Settings in the camera were at ISO 320, at f4 with a shutter speed of 1/320. The 70-200 mm Canon lens was zoomed out to 200 when I hit the shutter.
That doe wasn’t real interested in my company, so I was probably 40 or 50 feet away when I took the photo. There’s something more interesting in the file’s metadata, though. No flash went off.
When the Weather Outside is Frightful
I use a flash on sunny days for fill, on overcast days for a boost in contrast and it only comes off when I store the camera or stow it for TSA inspection. Judging by how crisp those snowflakes are in this image, I need to rethink the habit.
Using a flash is often the preferred method of “freezing” snowflakes in an image. The problem I’ve encountered is the fact that heavy snowflakes drop fast and if the shutter can’t sync with the flash fast enough, then there’s motion blur atop each one.
Admittedly I zoom way, way in when inspecting photos—a so-called pixel peeper. My Canon flash has hi-speed sync, too, but in the cold during chance encounters, it’s hard to remember, much less engage it in time.
I know, I know, turn it on before I close the door. But then I’d have to remember to disable it when I use my ancient Pocket Wizards in other photos, like this nighttime greenhouse image.
The good news is that anyone venturing out this holiday season with a decent cell phone—even when the weather outside is frightful—can take an image like the one above. No flash required. Whether the deer are there, and willing to pose, is another matter.