Shooting a Snowy Winter Panorama
by Mark Bowie
15 exposures: All at 1/200 second, f/10, ISO 200
Nikon D70, Nikkor 80-200mm lens
Special winter weather conditions can lead to special winter images. I monitor weather forecasts in anticipation of winter storms. Fresh snowfalls—heavy or light—can transform the landscape into a winter wonderland. Heavy freezes can create dramatic ice formations on waterways. Here in Wevertown, a fresh snow blanketed this barn and surrounding evergreens. The vibrant red of the barn helps it stand out in bold relief against the snowy backdrop. It commands a rise, and the flowing lines of the hillside lead the viewer’s eye down to the lower trees.
Trees are colonizers, more often growing in stands than as isolated individuals. I scout places where I can isolate them to emphasize their beautiful forms. At golf courses, parks, cemeteries and farmlands, dense clusters of trees are often thinned and individual trees are showcased in their glory.
I prefer not to photograph under blah gray skies, but the break in the clouds here adds some interest, and the even light fills in shadow areas with detail. I overexposed the image slightly from the camera’s meter reading so that the snow would be brighter than middle-toned and not look dreary. In Adobe Lightroom I controlled the color temperature—the warmth or coolness of the scene—using the White Balance adjustment slider. The slight bluish tint of the sky preserves the look of this chilly winter day.
Photographers don’t have to be constrained by the 2 x 3 dimensions of the 35mm-style digital camera. If a subject dictates that I shoot outside those bounds, I’ll shoot multiple exposures then combine them in processing. Here I shot 15 exposures to create the panorama. I wanted to include the barn as well as the trees down the hill in my image. They provide good visual anchor points, which are crucial to successful panoramas. I could have incorporated them all in one image using an extreme wide-angle lens, but the subjects would have receded in the frame. Instead, I shot a series of overlapping images to create a panorama. For maximum height-to-width ratio, I oriented the camera vertically. I overlapped each image by about 50 percent to help the software recognize the common points to join. I stitched the images together with PanoramaMaker software, which retails for about $40. The latest versions of Photoshop do panorama stitching very well, so I now use it primarily for this kind of work.