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Snow photography session

snow photography session

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Snow!

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!

Planning

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!

human, black white, hands

Exposure triangle explained

the exposure triangle explained

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So what's so special about this exposure triangle?

A tip that’s often given to new photographers, is to study the exposure triangle. But what is the exposure triangle and why should I know about it? For a beginner photographer it might be an intimidating concept to grasp, but I’ll try to explain it as simple as possible. Let’s start at the beginning: a very important aspect of taking a photograph is light. Many say it’s even the basis of photography. Just looking at the word itself, “photo” meaning “light” and “graphy” meaning “writing”, photography is essentially “writing with light”

In connection to the light we use in photography, there is exposure. Exposure is the amount of light that is cast onto the light-sensitive medium of the camera. It might sound complicated, but let’s break that down. Inside your camera is either a film (analogue) or a sensor (digital). The outcome of the picture is a result of how much light is shed onto the film or sensor and how light-sensitive it is. More light makes a lighter picture, less light makes a darker picture.

 

But my camera shows me if the exposure is right

Modern cameras have a built in exposure meter. This means that when you use the automatic settings of your camera, the camera will try to expose the photo correctly by automatically setting the parameters in a way that it thinks is best. If you use one of the partially manual settings of your camera, like aperture priority or shutter priority, then you can manually set some of the parameters. The camera will then automatically set the remaining parameters to achieve a correct exposure. In full manual mode, you’re on your own. In that case the camera will just accept your settings and not do anything to correct the exposure. So when exposure is off, you will end up with an underexposed or overexposed photo.

Then what camera mode is best to use? The one that you feel comfortable with! Using a (partially) manual mode gives you greater creative freedom, but if you don’t understand what you’re doing, you will still end up with bad pictures. Also, if you do know all the ins and outs, you are not required to always use the full manual mode. Sometimes it’s just more convenient to use a semi-automatic mode, for example in fast changing circumstances. 

How exposure works

There are three factors that determine the exposure:

  • Shutter speed: regulates the amount of time the shutter opens, letting light into the camera and onto the film or sensor. So, selecting a short shutter speed only opens the shutter for a very short period of time, thus letting in only a small amount of light. On the other side, a longer shutter speed will open the shutter for a longer period, letting in more light. The shutter speed is measured in seconds, or a part of a second. Because it controls the time of your pictures, shutter speed influences the movement in your picture. You can use it stop or create motion in your photographs.
    E.g. 1/4000s (one four thousandths of a second) is a very short or fast shutter speed, where 1s (one second) is a very long or slow shutter speed.
  • ApertureI will explain more in detail about this in another blog, but the sort explanation is; this determines the size of the opening in your lens. Basically a larger opening lets in more light, and a tighter opening will let in less light. The important thing to know about aperture is, that a larger opening has a lower number and a smaller opening has a higher number. The aperture also controls depth of field in your photo. Aperture size is indicated with an f-number.
    E.g. f/2 is a large opening letting in a lot of light, where f/32 is small opening letting in a small amount of light.
  • ISO: this controls the light-sensitivity of the film or sensor. When using a low light-sensitivity, you will need more light to fall onto the medium to get a correct exposure. Opposite, using a high light-sensitivity requires less light to get a correct exposure. This sounds easy enough, but unfortunately a higher ISO comes at a trade-off. It will introduce noise into your photograph, which could decrease the quality of your photo.
    E.g. ISO100 is a low light-sensitivity, needing more light to fall onto the medium. ISO12800 is a high light-sensitivity requiring less light to enter the camera.

The triangle

This leads us to the exposure triangle. We have the three factors mentioned above, controlling the amount of light and the light-sensitivity, which in unison control the exposure of a photograph. Now the trick is, that changing on of the three will also affect the other two. This means when you have a correct exposure but you want to change one of the settings, most likely one of the other two will also have to be changed to keep getting a proper exposure. On the other hand, if you have a bad exposure, you can use your knowledge of the triangle to correct the exposure. 

 

This all can be shown in a graphic way like the diagram below:

exposure triangle

You can see our three parameters aperture, shutter speed and ISO are in the sides of the triangle. Alongside each side there are values that correspond with the parameters. The arrows in the middle represent the move from darker exposure to lighter exposure. For each setting it shows what a change in either direction will do for the exposure. The text on the outer ring of the triangle shows the artistic consequences of changing the settings.

How to use the exposure triangle to your advantage

By studying the exposure triangle and the dynamics behind it, you can learn what the effects of changing the parameters will be. Also you can figure out how you should change the setting(s) to get the desired effect. To exemplify, if you are experiencing underexposure (a dark picture) there are three things that can be changed for a better exposure:

  • Decrease your shutter speed to let in more light
  • Increase your aperture to let in more light (beware, a larger aperture is represented by a smaller number)
  • Increase the ISO to have a greater sensitivity to the light coming in
Another example, looking at it from an artistic point of view, could be that you are photographing a windmill. If you want to show the movement of the blades in your photograph, you need to slow down your shutter speed. The consequence of this would be that you let in more light, causing an overexposed image. The solution would be to either lower your ISO, or close down your aperture to correct the exposure.

You don’t have to use all of your options, but you are always free to use more one depending on your needs. It all depends on the conditions of the surroundings and the type of picture you are trying to take. To get the most out of photography you need to understand these three principals and how to use them to your advantage in every situation.

 

Conclusion

Mastering the exposure triangle, and the three components it is made up off, will help increase the quality of your photos. It will also give you options to showcase your creativity. Knowing how to manipulate the shutter speed or aperture to your advantage, will give you the power to create the type of picture you envisioned. If you keep practicing this, your photography will improve massively.

I hope I managed to shed some light on the situation with this blog (pun intended). If there are still things that are unclear, don’t hesitate to ask me for clarification. If there are any other comments you would like make regarding this article, you can also reach out to me in the comment section below!

Guide idtours Rotterdam

Photos website idtours

Photos website idtours

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This winter I have been taking photos for the new 2020 website of idtours in Rotterdam. Idtours is a company offering tours in the city of Rotterdam. What makes idtours unique is that they offer a very wide range of tours, including walking tours, bicycle tours and e-scooter tours. Amongst the different types of tours you can find for example the highly rated free walking tour, the very popular multicultural food tours, and a war history tour. And whats’s more, they offer these tours to a wide range of customers like tourists, companies and schools.

The company owner, Hans, takes real pride in giving his customers the true Rotterdam experience. For this purpose, Idtours has a great network of local partners. This means you can dive into the life of a Rotterdam local when you go on one of the tours. 

All this means there were a lot of pictures needed for the website, in order to be able show of everything they have to offer. The work has been divided in several photoshoots. First we concentrated on getting pictures of the guides at work and guests on tours. Then we went to all of the partners to take photos in their places of business. Last but not least all the atmosphere photos were collected.

In this article you can find some examples of the results that ended up on the website of idtours. If you want to see all of the photos, or if you are interested in going on one a tour with idtours, you can also visit their website https://idtoursrotterdam.com. If you are a business owner and would also like to have good pictures for your website, please contact me.