I love our family trip in the fall to the Appalachians. It seems lately that we’ve been unable to get there until after the leaves have reached their peak color and have fallen off the trees. This was one of those trips. I was a little disappointed to find that most of the trees were barren of leaves, leaving me with shots of twigs and stumps. As we were driving through the mountains, on our way home, it started to snow. We came across an area of the mountains where the leaves were still hanging on. I pulled over and took a short walk in the woods and discovered this scene. It was amazing! All you could hear was the sound of the water running over the rocks in the creek and snow falling through the trees. Playing out before me was the battle of the seasons. The snow just couldn’t stay cold enough as it approached the forest floor. This created the demarcation line of color through the woods. This was one of those times as a photographer where I actually got giddy… yes I used the word “giddy”. I knew this shot was going to be something special and all I had to do was find an interesting way to frame it and expose for the differences in light to dark. I walked away very pleased with this shot. It made the whole trip worthwhile, photographically-speaking. Winter finally won.
I made this shot with a Nikon D700 using a Nikon 28-70mm @ 28mm. Manual Exposure Mode with aperture set to f/11 and shutter speed at .7 seconds. This is definitely one of those shots where shooting RAW can make or break the shot. In this case, a JPEG doesn’t have enough data to work with to correctly expose both the light colored snow and the dark forest floor. When I was working out my exposure I knew I wanted an aperture of f/11 so that I’d have enough depth-of-field to render the whole scene sharp. This left only shutter speed and ISO to figure out. ISO is an easy one when you have a tripod and still scene; I set it to ISO 100 – as low as it would go. Shutter speed is all that’s left to work out. The snow in this scene is important and I wanted it to have detail so I needed a shutter speed that would just barely squeeze in all those bright spots without rendering the rest of the scene unusably dark. The latitude of RAW affords this. This image was made in one shot. I’m not anti-HDR (High Dynamic Range), I just prefer to do things the old way if I believe it’s possible. A good RAW image and some time in Photoshop can produce some amazing range and detail.