snow photography session
Nowadays we don’t get a lot of snow anymore here in the Netherlands. So when snowstorm Darcy was announced, I started thinking what kind of photography opportunities this would bring for me. We were warned not to go out driving if not totally necessary, and I didn’t think that would be the case. That meant I was limited to subjects within walking distance.
I thought of a couple locations, but the one that drew me the most was the nearby nature park just south of Rotterdam, which houses the historic windmill of Pendrecht. This park is within 20-30 minutes walking distance and, besides the windmill, it has some beautiful nature and scenery. This was perfect for some snow photography!
As always with landscape photography, it’s best to plan ahead. Especially when you’re going to photograph in though conditions. Luckily I already know the place pretty well, because I go there more often. I knew some nice spots to get a good view of the windmill, and I also knew where to find some beautiful Scottish Highlander cows. Check.
Snow was forecast from late in the evening and throughout the following day, so we would wake up in winter wonderland. I wanted to get there before the people would touch the fresh snow to get the best pictures. But because of the dense clouds that snowfall brings with it, I figured it wouldn’t be useful to try and catch the sunrise. Also I didn’t want to be there too early, and be frozen out before the good light hit. So I decided to leave the house around sunrise, planning to arrive at just the right moment.
The evening before I made sure all my gear was in top shape. Batteries charged, memory cards empty, lenses clean. I also made sure there was a drink in my photography backpack, as I always do. Then I checked if I had my gloves and my hat, to keep me warm in subzero temperatures. I took my hiking boots and set them by the exit for the following morning. I got everything ready so that I could leave the house, ready to do some snow photography, without having to think of anything.
The day has come: snow photography
First thing I did when I woke up, was to check the window to see if the promised amount of snow had fallen. And luckily it had. So I got dressed, had some breakfast and went on my way. The first part of my walk goes trough a busy populated area, but not many people were about yet. I chose the right time. It might also be because the snow was still falling pretty hard and there was quite a lot of wind. As I reached the highway I had to pass, the snowplows just passed by to clear the road.
I reach the park and it is wonderful. A beautiful blanket of untouched snow, ready to be photographed. I was the first person to tread on it. Also, I was lucky enough the windmill was turned in the right direction, so it was facing me. I went straight to the first spot I had thought of, a little bridge with a view of the windmill, close to were I entered the park. The water flowing under the bridge would provide me with some nice leading lines to the windmill. As the snow and the wind were pounding at my back, I set up my first shot. I chose to shoot handheld, because I didn’t want to get my tripod out and have it freeze to my hands (I take my gloves off when I shoot photos).
When taking pictures in the snow, it is good practice to slightly expose to the right (overexpose). The light meter in your camera tries to tell you the correct setting, but because the snow is so white it will actually give you a slightly false reading.
Photographing the Scottish highlanders
Next I went to the Scottish highlander cows, that were conveniently close to were I was. You are allowed to enter the meadow they are in, as long as you follow some simple rules. They are a gentle type of cow, but they have great horns and a good strong physique. If they do get agitated, they have the tools to really hurt a person, and they have been known to do so in rare occasions. So don’t let your dog out in the meadow, don’t get in between the herd, and don’t touch them. Other then that you can get pretty close without them being bothered too much.
These are some formidable animals, with their long brown hair and huge horns. A great subject for photography, especially with the snow all over their fur. Unfortunately (for me, not for them), the keeper had set up a large green tent for shelter and put some ugly blue plastic crates full of fresh food for the animals. So I had to somehow shoot around those items, or use them in my composition. I decided to stay and hang out with them a bit longer, to see which opportunities would develop. In the end my patience was rewarded with this beauty, which you can now order in my shop.
Time to go home
After hanging out with the highlanders for some time, I walked around the park some more. Snow was still falling and the wind was brutal. Also, more and more people started showing up. I was starting to get cold and tired, and I wasn’t getting the photos I was looking for anymore. So I figured I’d better go home and cherish the experience and the pictures that I had gotten.
It’s important to know that when you get home from a cold trip like this, you shouldn’t put your cold camera out in the warm environment of your comfortable house straight away. Before I get home, I dry my gear as best I can, and put it in my camera bag. Maybe just take your battery and memory card out, so you can recharge and get the photos on your computer. Then when you get home leave your gear in the bag and let it slowly adjust to room temperature. If you can, leave it in a colder area first, like maybe in a hallway. Only take it out of the bag when you’re sure it’s slowly come back to temperature. Otherwise you run the risk of condensation inside your camera and lenses, which can cause a lot of problems for you.
After I warmed myself up, I loaded the pictures onto my computer for post processing. When I’m done with selecting and processing the photos, I always give myself some time to do something else. Then, when I come back after a while and look at the photos again, I often make some fine adjustments again. It’s just when you’re working on the photo’s for some time, your eyes get tired and don’t see straight anymore, or at least it feels that way. Give them some time and come back for a fresh look.
The second day of photography
In the evening the skies cleared up again and the snow stopped falling. But because the temperatures were still low enough, I knew the snow would stay. So I got the idea to go back out the following morning, when the snow would still be there, but no more new snow was falling. This would give me better opportunities to get in some longer landscape shots without the falling snow blurring my photos. And because this would be a weekday, there were bound to be less people around. So there I went again, hiking out around sunrise.
And I was right. It was still grey skies, but there wasn’t any snow falling. This meant visibility was great now. Also the wind had gone down quite a bit, so it didn’t feel so cold any more. I got to the park and took more or less the same route. Starting at the bridge again, then making my way over to the highland cows. From there, around the water and back over the bridge. The first photo I took was near the bridge, but I chose a composition without the water. Instead, I included the gate that leads to the cow meadow.
Time for some landscape
With the better weather and improved visibility, I was able to get better landscape shots in. And since the Scottish highlanders were all snuggled up in and around the tent, I started my hike through the park and around the lake. That’s when I noticed this lane with snowy bushes on the either side. At the end of the lane is a gorgeous house. I have walked here numerous times before, and I have always liked the house. But with the snow on the branches it just all felt very different. It created some sort of visual tunnel for me, leading to the house.
Walking around the lake in the middle of the park, I came onto one of my other favorite views of the windmill. From across the lake you can see the windmill on the other side, while the shores of the lake create a nice layering effect for your photo. I had to do some walking about to get a nice composition without any branches and bushes on my side of the lake blocking the view. It’s just a shame that from this vantage point I was now photographing the back of the windmill, but you can’t win them all.
The highlanders are back
On my way back out of the park, I noticed the highlanders had somewhat come out of hiding. Since I already had a great shot of on of the cattle from the day before, I thought I’d best leave them be. But there wouldn’t be any harm in taking a shot from a bit further away. I went for a shot of the beautiful beast with the windmill in the background. You can’t get more dutch then a cow and windmill in one picture.
With that shot my two day snow photography session ended. I really enjoyed being out in nature with my camera and taking some nice shots. If you want to visit this location in the south of Rotterdam sometime, I included the Google map location below. I hope you also liked my photos, please let me know down in the comments section. I you have some question, you can also reach out off course!