Southern Exposure

Southern Exposure

More often than not, snow falling on the Isle of Wight is the of type weather which only occurs in mind, crisp white memories with cold hands and drippy noses. Though the occasions are rare, the site of the the rolling hills and coast covered with fresh snow are stunning. So the weather authorities are saying “maybe” for this weekend, which means probably not for us hanging off the coast of the UK.

But what if……?

The My Isle of Wight visual media crew are on standby. Poised like…well, drips on the end of your nose which fall unwittingly into your thermos embalmed tea that you’re holding two handed like the grail (while muttering profanities in an effort to remember what it was like when your hands didn’t hurt).

What a lot of people don’t realise when taking pictures in the snow is that they haven’t got a clue how their camera works out the correct exposure. Cameras these days are clever,but not as clever as at least most of you. When a camera calculates an exposure, it measures the light intensity of the entire scene and works out the average from the highs to lows, and makes it “average”. Here, average means “18% grey”; google it.

This very generally works very well, but there are many situations where it is not appropriate. Maybe with strong backlight, a city scape at night or any situation where there are extremes of a single tone. Many cameras are armed with different metering modes to help in these situations, with partial metering of the scene usually in the centre or even spot metering, to give you a very localised exposure calculation.

I don’t want to go into depth about metering now as its a fairly broad subject depending on how geeky you want to get, and frankly I’m sat in my studio with no heating while I type….but now, armed with that little bit of knowledge, what is going to happen when a camera calculates an exposure for a scene that is mainly white snow, everyone?  It looks at everything and tries to make it 18%grey. What it achieves in snow is just that, it makes it 18% grey.

What you have to do is make the camera overexpose what it thinks is correct. There are many ways to do it. Most commonly, it would be with exposure compensation. This just means you can tell the the camera to adjust its measured exposure up or down by a fixed amount that you choose. Typically with snow, you would overexpose by 1 stop. This should give you crisp whites worthy of any detergent commercial……

PS: Yes yes, I know. The shot above is BW.