I told you I’d be back

As threatened, I did indeed get out and do some more night shots, both during the snowstorm and after it stopped. We got a significant amount here for NC, roughly seven inches in my area I think, and the temperature peeked above freezing only for a couple hours today. It’s made standing outside late at night/early in the morning (whatever you call 4 AM) interesting, to say the least.

Above, an experimental shot. I’m not really sure what to think about it, so I’m going to solicit a few opinions on it.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I noticed the light pouring through the blinds was pretty bright, indicating that the sky had cleared and the nearly-full moon was out. Naturally, with a full snowfield, I couldn’t let this pass, but the roads were too treacherous, so I stuck around and did my photography locally. As I’ve said earlier, the full moon can provide a lot of light, if you let the exposure out long enough – this one is three minutes at ISO 100, f8, slightly brightened in post-processing. I like how the sparkles showed up.

As I type this, I have two long exposures from a few minutes ago sitting in the EOS 3 (film camera) waiting for the roll to be finished and developed, and one still exposing on the Mamiya out in a clearing in the woods behind my house – I’m going for a two-hour exposure. Does that make this live-blogging? I suppose it doesn’t count, since I’m sitting warm and dry inside while the camera stands alone in the woods.

By the way, a little word of advice for starry night shots and such: wait until very late at night. Aircraft cutting through your shots take away a lot of the appeal (unless you plan them). Eight PM is not a good time. Generally, by midnight in most areas the flights have halted. I wanted an earlier start tonight because the moon is rising and I didn’t want its light in the sky this time. Even on what seems to be a perfectly clear night, moonlight scatters from the air and causes too much sky glow for good star photography.

Earlier today, I got out and chased a few shots as well. An important thing to remember as you’re doing snow (or beach) shots is that the camera meter wants to make the scene an “average” brightness. When you have snow or bright sand and water, the camera will darken this down to middle tones if you let it, so always adjust to overexpose the shot. It’s called, “exposure compensation,” and for snow, generally 2/3 to 1 full stop is useful, depending on what you’re after. Bleaching out the snow to pure white destroys the details. So unless you’re just using it for a setting, I’d recommend keeping it bright but not white. This shot is 2/3 over-exposed from what the camera calculated, metered from the snow in the foreground. Unfortunately, at this size it doesn’t carry the details as well, so you can just make out that the rabbit trail continues on the other side of that broad shadow.

If the long film exposures turn out halfway decently, I’ll come back and show them off, and give another example of what good film can do to star colors. Meanwhile, I’ll close with a shot from the storm, where the flash helped show conditions just a wee bit better.

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