On that snowy October day it was a challenge to keep my camera dry, keep snow and water drops off the lens, and stay warm myself. But it was a rare opportunity, and I didn’t want to wait until the snow stopped, because the falling snow itself gave the photographs an ethereal quality, almost like fog.
For almost every composition I tried a variety of shutter speeds. Fast shutter speeds, like 1/125th of a second and above, rendered the falling snowflakes as little white dots, giving the photographs a pointillistic look. Slow shutter speeds, like 1/8 of a second and below, would make the flakes disappear and turn the atmosphere into a thin fog, especially if it wasn’t dumping too hard. In-between speeds (in the 1/30th- to 1/60th-of-a-second range) turned the snowflakes into streaks.
It was impossible to photograph into the wind, as water drops would quickly cover the lens. Even when looking away from the wind a long lens hood was necessary to keep the front element dry. That meant that I used my 70-200mm zoom exclusively, but that wasn’t a problem, as it was the perfect lens for these more intimate landscapes. There are many commercially-available camera rain covers, but I just threw an extra rain jacket over the camera. No matter how careful you are, however, under these conditions it’s inevitable that the camera will get some water on it, so I was thankful to have a well-sealed camera body.
This was such a fun day, despite the cold and damp. As I said before, I was like a kid in a candy store. The only problem was that it was hard to pick out the best images later! So if you have a favorite from this group let me know.
— Michael Frye
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.