Getting Great at Snow Photography

Oh man, it’s been snowing so much here in Indiana. It’s a lot more than we get most winters. So, I’ve been out documenting it. I use snow photography as an opportunity to practice all of the classic elements: framing, shadows, contrast, action, texture, and of course, composition.

The featured image at the top of this post is my favorite composition I’ve taken this winter. I love the angels and geometry. It has great lines that draw your eyes across the frame. It has a timeless quality and feels like a classic image to me.

Frozen Creek Play with Falling Snow

Just across the street and down the hill is another world on the golf course in the winter. It’s great having a park-like setting to explore the woods and play in open areas.

The highlight to our kids is playing on the frozen creek. It’s not cold enough in Indiana every year for creeks and lakes to freeze enough to walk on. But a few weeks of below-freezing temperatures has been enough to freeze the water. They definitely made good use of it!

snow photography frozen creek winter midwest indiana
snow photography portrait

I love the above candid portrait of my daughter. My kids are used to me getting up in their faces while we’re out doing stuff. They never seem to mind, but I try not to stay too close for long because everyone deserves their personal space.

Taking photos of kids at play really shows them at their most free. Add a snowy environment and it makes for something unique because it gives a great sense of time and place. I work to capture eyes in the photo because they add so much to an image.

I don’t photoshop my images in any way. I only do minor color and tone adjustments. Can you tell by that red thread sticking out from her mask? To me, perfection comes from what’s real, not from what I can manufacture in editing software.

snow photography winter contrast shadows

The image above is a study in light and shadow. My kids were throwing snow over the edge of the bridge. I knew that the strong sunlight and shade of the bridge would provide for some nice contrast and highlight the powder in the air.

The contrast of the ice and water below lead to some great minimalist images. There are all sorts of natural abstracts that are unique to winter and snow photography.

Sledding Hill

About 200 yards from our property is a very nice sledding hill. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you definitely see me post photos from this spot every year. It’s a great place for the neighborhood kids to gather, bring their sleds and snowboards, and just let loose.

winter sledding snow photography

The above image is a good testament to how I assess the full frame when I’m shooting. In watching the scene unfold through my viewfinder, I noticed the kid on the far left about to take off down the hill. I waited for them to slide directly between the two trees before I took the photo. It’s a small detail that I think makes a big difference in the image.

Snow Photography at Home

Sometimes it’s nice to stay close to home. Especially when you want to play with your 20-month-old little brother. There’s still plenty of chances available to practice my snow photography at home.

winter snow photography neighborhood suburbs

Natural Snowy Settings

There are lots of trees and woods around that provide a great opportunity for snow photos both with and without people.

snow as a backdrop

Shooting from a higher angle and excluding the horizon, combined with the white snow provides a nice, simple background. I used that here in addition to the lines of the tree trunks and spacing/directionality of the kids in the frame to form a composition that’s both simple and complex.

The photos above are all examples of natural framing. Look for ways to use elements like trees and patterns in the snow to frame the subjects.

So venture out like the intrepid explorer below and see what elements you can find unique to snow photography to really practice your art!

snow toddler black and white photography

Related Posts

It’s a veritable winter wonderland around here, so I have multiple snow posts to share this year. There’s also some great photo tips on my YouTube channel about snow.

Sun in the Wintertime

What’s a photographer to do in a pandemic? I’m someone who likes to photograph people most of all. I need to avoid people as much as possible right now. And when I’m around others, I can’t photograph them in the close manner I’m accustomed to.

So I spend a lot of time outdoors. And with my family. I’m fortunate to live with 6 other people and I never take that for granted. I look at this as my professional blog, so I try not to focus too much on my family, even though they’re with me for nearly every shoot that isn’t for a client.

This is an unprecedented time in our recent history. I don’t think I need to draw hard lines between “personal” and “professional.” My family is here experiencing this pandemic with me. We go to local parks and playgrounds. These are the things I photograph.

My brain tells me these shoots get repetitive. But my spirit knows that each time I go out with my camera, new things happen – things that will only happen one time in the course of human existence – and I’m there to document and interpret them.

So, here’s my visual journal entry for this week. We spent time in a brand new environment to us: Eagle Creek Park on the NW side of Indianapolis. We walked, climbed, thought, poked at things, broke ice, fell down, wrestled, and took in the rare Indiana winter sun.

Related Posts

It’s been nine months since I started making these quarantine stories. Here are a few of the first ones from last spring.

Fall Photography in Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

Today I took a walk through the woods at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve in Fishers, IN. It’s basically a suburban oasis of forest and natural grassland.

I had five kids with me, but for this post, you can just go alone.

Bringing the Nature to you

Spending so much time at home these days, it can be a bit of an adjustment heading into public, even if it’s a natural and somewhat remote setting. Each time we spend some time in nature, I’m always glad we do!

I hope this brings some peace to anyone who is quarantining or currently without large swaths of nature in which to roam.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve in fall

Depth vs Expression

For the next two images, I noticed this woman as I walked along a trail and couldn’t resist taking her photo. It was a nice moment. Which of the two images do you like best? They’re very similar but have two subtle differences. Leave a comment and let me know!

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

The most obvious difference is her facial expression. The top photo is more serene and the second is almost funny. I think she was having her photo taken by her husband off to the side.

The second, more subtle difference is the depth of field. The top photo was taken at f/11 so it has more depth than the second photo, which is f/2.8. Although, at this distance from the subject, it’s not as pronounced.

I prefer the depth of the second photo with the expression in the first. But since I don’t make fake photos by combining images, I’ll choose the first photo as my favorite because of the expression.

Abstraction

For the next two images, I played with depth again to bring out some different abstract qualities in the scenes.

Indianapolis Fall Photography

For the image above, I liked how the shape of the leaves and the sunlight combine for some interesting abstract patterns. I used more depth (f/11) to get more of the shapes into focus. Also, in this case I thought the black & white edit better highlighted what I liked about the scene.

The image below is from the same area, but with the shallow depth and focus in the foreground, I ended up liking the color version better.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

This next image below had some impressionistic qualities that caught my eye. By using a shallow depth of field, the foreground and background fall quickly out of focus to add to the painterly quality of the photo.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve in October

Visitors and Residents

The trails at Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve were busy with dog walkers and families having their portraits taken. We also passed some permanent residents who had not-so-recently had some flowers placed at their resting place.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve Fishers Indiana

Photographic Elements

This next section features some images that highlight basic concepts of photography and composition: color, line, texture, shape, pattern and more.

Fishers Indiana Fall Photography
Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

Get Bent

When I saw the bent and gnarled vines below, I thought it looked cool in real life, but I wasn’t confident it would translate well into a photo. I decided to take a shot anyways and it turns out I was wrong!

The black & white edit really highlights the shapes as does the high contrast.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

Shooting a Photo Story

Today we head to the creek to look for a little motivation for shooting a photo story.

It can be hard to find the desire to get out and shoot on a gray winter day. However, if as a creative, I need to create, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.

In this post, I’ll walk through the steps that led to the final product. In other words, you have to get to the bottom of the post to see the finished piece.

Go Shoot

First, we had to get out and explore. When the weather is bland, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing interesting to see, but really there is. We just have to go look for it.

Friday Photo Tips

If you’ve seen any of my social media channels, you’ll know I post a tip each Friday with some friendly advice.

The week I shot this story, my post was about getting out and shooting a story. You can view that photo tip below.

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube to see future Friday Photo Tips. You can learn how to improve your photography no matter what your level of experience is.

The Final Photo Story

Now for the finished piece! Watch the video below to see how I applied the advice from the Friday Photo Tip to the images and video clips I shot.

Subscribe!

Hey, my YouTube channel is one of the places we post our Friday Photo Tips and photo stories. Subscribe to see our latest videos as soon as they’re posted.

ALSO, I have a secondary, more vanity-driven motive for asking you to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Currently, my channel has the following name in the URL: UCDm1S5mxu4ZSFEstNy6civA.

I do not like that. When I hit 100 subscribers I can change it to something nice like ZachDobsonPhoto.

^^^^^^^^^SUBSCRIBE^^^^^^^^^

Related Posts

Here are some other personal stories I created about just going out and doing things.

I hope this inspires you to do things, too! And then create some art! Yeah!

Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of Tennessee & North Carolina, is the most visited National Park in the United States with over 11 million people in 2017.  That’s almost twice as much as the second most popular park, the Grand Canyon.  I didn’t know and I bet you didn’t either.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We visited the Smoky Mountains in late July, along with about a million other people. But that is just a rough guesstimate on our part. July & August are the busiest time of year for the Smoky Mountains and even then it was well worth it!

This National Park includes expansive prairies, soothing mountain scape and charming historical settlements. When the GSMNP was created in 1934, many of the settlers left their homes and businesses and those buildings have been preserved by the park.  Southern Appalachia was also home to the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed by the US government and the NPS shares some Native American history throughout the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park black and white

Clingman’s Dome is the highest peak in the Smokies at 6,643 feet. It’s the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The wonderful thing about this summit (and National Parks in general) is that it is unusually accessible. We were able to drive up the winding Newfound Gap Road until the last half a mile and then we hiked the last half a mile up a VERY steep trail to the top. From the observation deck we were rewarded with 360° views of the Smokies. 

I really enjoy photographing the visitors to public spaces as much as the scenery. I think its magical to have so much of the natural landscape preserved for generations to experience. I’ve attempted to share a little of the Great Smoky Mountains here and I hope you get inspired to get out and explore!

Visiting a national park with children means spending some time traveling by car in order to see as much as possible on a short visit. We spent only one day in the Great Smoky Mountains and managed to see Cades Cove (a valley on the western side of the park), made the very long and somewhat treacherous drive up Newfound Gap Road then hiked up to Clingman’s Dome (the highest point in the park), picnicked with a bear near Little Pigeon River (this was exciting but unintentional – NEVER approach a bear!) and explored the settlement surrounding the Cable Grist Mill.

If you want to see an image of that adorable baby bear be sure to join our mailing list, because we shared the image in our latest email as well as a FREE DOWNLOAD of the gorgeous Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains sun rays

Finally, I’m excited to introduce another new element to our blog: video.  I’ve embedded a time-lapse from Cades Cove and some soothing footage of the grist mill below and you can see Clingman’s Dome and Little Pigeon River on our new YouTube channel as well as subscribe to see our latest videos as we release them.

The details included in this post are from The National Park Service website which is a great resource before & during your visit. If you’re interested in licensing for these or any other images from Zach Dobson Photography, please contact us. And be sure to subscribe to see our latest content as it’s released as well as get some cool extras we offer only to our closest allies.

Visit Bloomington

I love Bloomington!  As a student at Indiana University, Bloomington became the first home that I chose myself.  And even (nearly) 15 years since I last lived there, it’s still one of my favorite towns anywhere.

I was thrilled in 2016 to collaborate with Visit Bloomington on a cover story about the renovations at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for their visitors guide.  Last fall we took on a broader look at Bloomington in two parts. For Part One, I scoured the streets of Bloomington checking out everything from restaurants and bars to trails and public art.

Part Two is top secret and will be released in early May.  Follow Visit Bloomington on Twitter (@VisitBtown) and Instagram (@visitbtown) to see the news first hand.

winterlights

Winterlights is the newest of the major holiday attractions in the Indianapolis area.  A part of the 152-acre Indianapolis Museum of Art campus, recently rebranded as Newfields, the event features more than a million lights, winter treats and displays set to holiday music.  The family and I decided to check it out this week and we highly recommend a visit!

Pro tip: Arrive just before sunset. The colors of twilight in the sky behind the lights is a nice bonus, and night falls within half an hour, so you get the full effect of lights at night, too.










Christkindlmarkt

This past weekend was the grand opening of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt.  I stopped by on Sunday evening to check out the scene.  It’s a beautiful setup with the Palladium in the background.  The iceskating is affordable, and there are special deals on Wednesday and Thursday, so be sure to check out the website for details:  https://www.carmelchristkindlmarkt.com

Here a few shots from my brief visit.  I’ll be back soon to do a full shoot for Hamilton County Tourism, so I’ll be sure share those later this winter.

The woodworker is Christian Werner, a master craftsman from the small town of Seiffen, Germany. He travelled to Carmel for the opening weekend in 2017 to demonstrate how he creates animal figurines.

Carmel Indiana Christkindlmarkt Ice Skating

If you’re looking for more recent images from Carmel Christkindlmarkt, you’ll want to join our mailing list because we shared an exclusive view of the gorgeous Glühwein Pyramid, added in 2018, and a mouth watering image of a Raclette with our newsletter and we’ll be sure to let you know when those images go live in the future.

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other Indianapolis holiday events posts from 2018.  Click the image below.

indianapolis holiday photography

Turkey Run

Driving though northern and central Indiana, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the entire state is flat farmland or forests.  Turkey Run State Park is not something you’d expect to encounter.  The sandstone gorges created by Sugar Creek make for great climbing and exploring.

The park was on our summer bucket list, so when the last week before school arrived, we knew it was time to head out.

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Eclipse

Tired of the eclipse yet? No way! The family and I headed to Hopkinsville, KY to get the longest duration of totality in the country.  It was worth the drive (which was about 4 hours in and 7 hours out).

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Also, here’s a time lapse of the scene that I shot on my iPhone.  It’s cool to watch how dark it gets in such a short amount of time.

15 Hours of Mountain Biking

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When a client needs enough photos for a two-day shoot, but day 1 gets rained out completely, it means a 15-hour, sunrise to sunset shoot.  Add to that carrying 20 pounds of gear over miles of trails, up and down hills and rocky terrain, and you have one hard-core day of shooting.

I was up for the challenge, and the resulting images shot for the Brown County CVB’s mountain biking guide were well received.  In the “thank you” section of the guide the CVB’s agency and producer of the shoot, Three Sixty Group wrote…

“Thanks to our skilled photographer Zach Dobson (who managed to capture amazing shots of the trails and the mountain bikers while perching on precarious rocks, lying in the mud and risking poison ivy).”

In the end, there was no poison ivy.  Just a bruised ego from a fall in the mud and a set of images I could truly feel proud of.

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