In the January 2014 issue of Arizona Highways, we feature a magnificent portfolio, A Storm in the Desert. The idea was born after the February 20, 2013, winter storm that blanketed the Sonoran Desert in snow. It’s a rare occurrence; fortunately, several photographers, including Jack Dykinga, Paul Gill and Randy Prentice, decided to tackle the elements and photograph the event.
Below, Arizona Highways Photo Editor Jeff Kida talks about how to shoot in winter weather — you know, just in case it snows in the desert again.
1. Regardless of the season, weather is always your friend. Normal human beings run and hide from inclement weather, but photographers often go out in it. Places like the Grand Canyon aren’t going to change in our lifetime, but weather does change every year, and it creates a stage or a drama for a pre-existing setting. Embrace it!
2. A lot of scenic photographers like the grand photographs, and snow on the ground can create those grand scenes, but in weather, you can also make marvelous vignettes. Say you’ve got a fog or a mist. It creates a veil for a background, but if you combine that softened background with a long lens and a strong foreground, you can create incredible vignettes that way.
3. The key to shooting in snow is to know that a snowy scene is much brighter than an average scene, so it’s going to fool your camera meter — often, it’s 1 1/2 or two stops brighter than what your camera reads. Be aware of that, and use the exposure-compensation button and the histogram to make sure you have a good exposure.
4. Taking your camera from a warm vehicle to a cold environment can cause condensation in the lens. It’s not usually harmful, but it can freak you out. Just let the camera sit and literally cool off, and the condensation will dissipate on its own. The reverse is also true, by the way: If you’re in an air-conditioned car and you enter a hot environment, the same thing can happen.
5. Because snow is so reflective, one fun thing is to shoot at night. Because DSLRs have the ability to capture low-light situations, even with a partial moon, you can get great sparkles from ice and snowflakes that would almost mirror the stars. Shooting at night during winter is always a fun challenge.