Shooting Video and Photos in Snow

(Video transcript) Hi, Paul Donovan here out in the cold here in Vancouver, British Columbia. January 2017. It's cold. Vancouver never has cold weather, doesn't have snow. Look at this! We are in weather, today is minus 3 Celsius. Incredibly cold for Vancouver.

I want to talk to you today about something that you probably already know, but when you are shooting video there are things you have to think when it comes to the lighting for your video when you are shooting in a world of white.

Snow creates a marvelous world of whiteness. When we're in the studio we are always trying to add more light. We are worried about the colour of the light. Whether it's going to be a daylight or cool white. We're always paying attention to these things in the studio. But when you are outdoors in an environment such as this where you have so much white everywhere blue sky, sun shining, snow that is reflecting everything you actually have the opposite problem. You have too much light.

Typical in any daylight environment you have no control. In the time I've been here I've watch the sun drop a good ... I don't know how many degrees ... but it's probably dropped about two inches by my eyeball. You have no control on that thing (the sun). It keeps moving.

The snow continues to reflect. If you recall when a cloudy day happens we often enjoy shooting outdoors because it distributes the light around and makes sure we have less shadow. Today we have shadows that sometimes are very prominent, like today the side of my face with the sun shining at me from this side, and the side of my face is dark. But I'm being reflected up off the ground with the white that is just overblasting things.

One of the things you want to think about when you're working in the snow is exposure. When we're doing video, same as you're doing photography, three settings are involved -- the way we light things. There's the ISO. ISO is the sensitivity of the film -- we don't call it film any more, now it's a sensor. ISO is dealing with the sensitivity. A low ISO number such as ISO 100 is great when you lots of light. And of ISO of 4000 is great when you have low light. But you don't want a higher ISO because it creates more grain and makes the image less quality. It's always nice when possible to give more than enough light Here we are in snow with too much light.

The second setting that affects what we are doing is the f-stop, the aperture. The aperture is the size of the hole that allows light to go through the lens to hit the sensor. A smaller hole, which is a higher f-stop number the less light that is actually getting through. The smaller the number, which is the bigger opening -- I always get those mixed up. When the hole is bigger in the lens to allow lots of light through then you have the opposite problem, you may have too much light, especially in an environment like that. So that's the ISO, then we have the f-stop.

The third setting is the shutter speed. This is the speed for which allow the image the sensor. 100 year ago when they were taking photographs on silver halide (?) glass people use to have to stand rock-steady for many many seconds, sometimes a minute, in order to burn the image onto the glass. Today we shoot in fractions of a second. It's not uncommon in sports environments at 1/1000 of a second. Grab the sports, environment grab the image which allows you to freeze the image. Sometimes you don't want that activitiy you can frees the image. Sometimes you want a slower shutter speed. also can induce blur by the subject of what you're taking picture of, or video of. This is all something you have to bear in mind.

All of these factors, the three things combined change a lot when you are in a snowy environment, a winter environment. Where the weather is white, the ground is white, snow is everywhere. All three of those things have to be carefully balanced out. A lot of people will tend to undershoot (expose) or overshoot (expose) because they fail to take into account of the amount of light that is involved when you are shotting white.

I personally prefer when I'm shooting photos, to use an ISO around 200 when I'm in extremely bright light scenario, such a snow environment -- or at a beach. Brrr That would be a nice to place to be now. Some people, the purists, would say, if you've got way too much light, shoot at ISO 100 so you can get the maximum possible grain, give you the best quality picture you can possibly get. And it allows you pull out the details that are available when you have a higher number pixels in play. Personally when I'm in a snow environment I tend lean to ISO 200. I like to do ISO at 200.

Then there's the f-stop and shutter speed. It depends on your personal preference and the environment you are trying to shoot in. When you close the shutter (aperture) down, say f16. you end up incurring a bigger depth of field. If you have a lot of material that's close as well as far you'll have more detail that is in focus. In an environment like I'm shooting today I actually want and hope that some of this background is a little bit close to focus. I'm happy I can shoot at f16 and be able to retain as much depth of field that I can get. When I'm in the studio I like to set my f-stop down around f4. This is because I actually want the backgroun behind me to be a little out of focus. Otherwise I'd have to push the background 20 or 30 feet behind me, and my studio's not big enough for that. In order for me to get the background, which is usually about 3 or 4 feet behind me. out of focus I have to try and set the f-stop down around an f5 In this environment if I opened up my f-stop to f5 I'm going to set a shutter speed fairly high, say a 250 or 500. In order for me to compensate by all the excess amount of light coming from the aperture I'm going to make a shorter shutter speed. It all comes down to a little bit about what you want vs what you need.

The shutter speed, the f-stop and the ISO in combination work together to take better imagery, whether it's photography or videography when you're standing out in the snow.

So there's just a general information tip for you when talking about cold weather videography, cold weather photography. 

This is Paul Donovan from Please check out our website at Subscribe to this channel to keep up with what's happening in the world of AV technicians. Thank you for watching.

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