It’s snowing on the Outer Banks.
Schools have let out early, kids are out making snowmen, toboggans and snowboards are coming out to ride the dunes. And everybody’s whipping out their cameras. Social media is blowing up with snow shots.
There’s something about snow on the beach that makes for really striking and evocative photographs. Find the right image and it will stay in your collection forever. The wind and the dunes shape the accumulation, and the snow conforms to the windblown ridgelines. White snowflakes mingle with darker grains of sand, creating patterns that are endlessly interesting.
This may sound like Photography 101 for those of you living in colder climes, but for those of you not accustomed to shooting snow, a couple of pieces of advice:
First, make sure your gear is protected. Plastic bags, custom-made nylon rain covers, ponchos…they all will do the trick. Unlike water, which will roll off of most water-resistant surfaces, snow will accumulate on your gear, force your battery to work harder, and seep into the various crevices of your camera.
If the snow is falling, you will get snowflakes on the front element of your lens, even if you are using a lens hood. There will be too much moisture to mop up with a standard lens tissue, so make sure to bring something soft and 100% cotton to wipe your lens with. An old t-shirt, even a clean pair of boxers. My #1 choice is a Fruit-of-the-Loom t-shirt with at least a couple of years of washing and wearing. It don’t get no softer. Whatever you use, just make sure it has a soft and uniform surface (no rib-knits). You can get specialty synthetic fabrics that are supposed to be used in these conditions, but in my experience nothing works better than cotton. All cotton, no blends. Keep it in your coat pocket, as you will be using it a lot and it should be readily accessible. Wipe your lens before taking the shot. Then wipe it again. And again.
It’s a good idea to expose roughly one stop over when photographing snow scenes. Your meter wants to expose for middle grey, but you want the snow to look white. So if you have control of your camera’s exposure, kick it up a stop. If you’re shooting with a phone you can touch-focus on something darker in the image to bring up the exposure.
Other than that just make sure you’re kitted out for warmth, water-resistance, and breatheability, and don’t hesitate to get down on your stomach for a better perspective. Just dust yourself off after.
Right, end of lesson. Go out there and get some.