Photographing an Autumn Blizzard with a fast shutter speed: Aspens and conifers in a snowstorm, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Aspens and conifers in a snowstorm, Colorado. 120mm, 1/125th of a second at f/11, ISO 400.

In early October a series of storms brought rain and higher-elevation snow to the mountains of Colorado. Claudia and I spent several long days chasing the weather, and I found many intriguing combinations of weather and color, including aspens with snow, fog, clouds, and sunbeams. But I never found aspens with snow and fog. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

One morning a series of showers passed through, bringing sun, then snow, then sun again. And then it started snowing again, harder, with the wind driving the flakes sideways. Through the blizzard I saw a hillside with conifers and aspens, and a few yellow leaves still clinging to the trees. Technically there was no fog, but the thickly-falling snow partially obscured the view, softening the scene and creating a painterly, fog-like effect.

I got out my 70-200mm lens, put on the lens hood and a rain cover, and started framing patterns of trees on the hillside. I varied my shutter speeds, but looking through the images later I liked the ones with fast shutter speeds best, where the snowflakes were frozen into tiny white specks, rather than becoming streaks. (The photograph above was taken at 1/125th of a second.)

The snow stopped as suddenly as it began. But this brief autumn blizzard created a beautiful combination of elements while it lasted – snow, color, patterns, a splash of color, and a hint of fog.

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Autumn Weather; Autumn into Winter: Part Two

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, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, 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: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has 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.