By Brad Herndon
Here in southern Indiana winter can, at times, get very bleak looking. The trees are barren of leaves, the flowers are gone, many of the birds have migrated south and many of the small mammals are holed up in semi-hibernation. And then it all changes.
A storm front comes roaring through that may dump from 1 to 10 inches of beautiful white snow on the ground and the bleak looking landscape takes on a winter wonderland look all its own. Kids get out the sleds and have a great time careening down hills. Snowmen are built. Skiers head to the few ski slopes southern Indiana has embedded in its rolling hills. Even delicious homemade snow ice cream may be enjoyed, just as it was decades ago before we had refrigerators and freezers.
Instead of brilliant white landscapes, their pictures have a dull, almost gray look to them. Instead of their children sledding down a blazing white slope, the hill has a dingy look to it. Maybe this has happened to you. In the next few paragraphs I’ll explain how to keep your winter wonderland images as white as snow.
When God created the earth, he made it so that most things in nature reflect 18% of the light that hits them. Because of this, when the camera was invented it eventually advanced to the point where it had an in camera meter. The designers set these meters up to assume everything the camera was taking a picture of reflected 18% light because most of nature reflects this amount of light. This meant that most of the pictures we photographers take are properly exposed, being not too dark, not too light.
However, not all things in nature reflect 18% light. Snow, for example, reflects 80 to 90% of the light that hits it. A huge piece of coal, on the other hand, reflects virtually no light. In other words, white and dark fool a camera’s meter. For an interesting example, if you were at a wedding and you used your camera on Automatic setting to take a full frame picture of a white dress, a medium gray dress and a black dress, the pictures would all look the same. They would all be a medium gray tone (18% gray). Take a white, black and medium gray piece of paper and photograph them full frame and they, too, will all look the same, being medium gray.
Almost all cameras, even the less expensive point and shoot cameras, have what is called an exposure compensation setting on them. This may also be called exposure value (EV) or go by another name. Regardless of the name, it allows you, the photographer, to set your camera so it lets in more or less light. More light lightens your pictures, while letting less light in darkens your pictures.
This simple setting will make sure your snow is white, but as a warning, don’t forget to reset your exposure compensation dial back to 0 when you get done with your snow photography. If you forget to change it back and go back to normal, medium toned photography, your pictures will be over exposed (too light).
A little white lie won’t hurt anyone. Although we’ve all heard that saying, I never heard my grandmother Nanny say it. In fact, she always talked to me about all lies being black. And if they were really bad, she called them dirty black lies. When I was a child her description of lies made an impression on me, that’s for sure, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t commit any of the worst kind, the dirty black ones.
Black, it seems, is generally tied in to something negative, while white is usually tied into something positive, something good, and something pure. The Bible has several scriptures talking about snow, and the whiteness of it.
The whiteness of the snow also encourages me to keep my life as clean and pure as I can. I have made, and continue to make, too many mistakes in my life, no matter how hard I try not to. I’m always reminded, though, how God takes care of my sins when I read Isaiah 1:18. “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
As a photographer I add exposure to my snow pictures so they will be pure white. And when my life dips into a dingy stage, I add exposure to the Son, Jesus Christ, to make my life whiter once more.
Until the next Creative Photography lesson, may God richly bless each one of you and may your lives be as bright as the Son.