Shooting in the Snow

Snow should be exposed so it will look like white snow and not be neutral gray. Exposing for a reflected light reading would give you gray snow. An incident light reading would give you white snow, possibly too white and lacking in detail. Practice with some transparency still film will help your exposure thinking.

I have found that a compromise between, incident and reflected works quite well. Usually one stop more light than reflected and one stop less that incident. For close-ups, select a back ground that will allow you to open up for the natural fill light and let the sun edge light the face. If front lit, use the incident reading and find a background that has some detail in it, such as rocks, trees or shady spots.

Go for detail in the snow for wide shots and facial detail in close shots. People squint badly enough in the snow anyway. Adding more fill makes it even more difficult for them. A trick they can do is: follow this carefully!... close your eyes, look at the sun with your EYES CLOSED, look away from the sun, open them and shoot. The eyelids will stay open for a short time.

Batteries loose their capacity in the cold. You can wear battery belts under your clothes, put your batteries into insulated containers and/or heat them if in really extreme conditions. Ensolite is a great insulation that does not soak up water. It's also good for knees and sitting in the snow.

All the precautions for skiing apply to shooting. Gloves with liners for the camera assistants (editing gloves work well though they don't last very long). Mitts are warmer that gloves. Sunburn and lip protection. Food keeps you warm. Put on a hat if your feet get cold. Have extra cloths. Etc.

Be pessimistic about planning a shooting day, it takes longer than you think. Things get forgotten. Signals get mixed. Communications fail. Wrong assumptions get made.

An enclosed snow cat is preferable if available. Equipment should be in cases if possible, but we often carry an assembled camera up front. Most snow cats throw snow onto an open back, cover your gear with a canvas. Snow cats are expensive, but can save hours of time.

Getting around the mountain on skis takes time by lifts even going to the head of the line.

Dry your Sorrells or other boot liners out at night. People working on skis should have boots to put on if they are out of their ski boots for a while.

Lists of who's who is very important when you are trying to communicate about names that you might have forgotten; mountain contacts, lift operators, ski patrol, maintenance people, cat drivers, talent etc. Ski Patrol Bill, Grip Bill, Actor Bill etc.

For shooting on steep slopes, one leg can be removed from a tripod and replaced with a shorter one. Ball leveling heads are very useful. I have some old ski pole baskets that work on tripod legs. Small pieces of rug work. Stamping down the snow helps.

MAKE YOUR LISTS and use them.

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