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Tips and tricks

Winter photography in town and in nature

Photo school

Winter is an unpleasant photography environment due to the harsh conditions, although it provides diverse and interesting photo themes, some of them cannot be captured in other weather conditions. For instance, when trees lose their foliage they reveal the nice structure of their branches and as a result of less colour the graphical characteristics of the photos intensifies which strengthens the composition. If fog, a quite frequent phenomenon in this season, is accompanied with snow, then special - „white in the white” styled or rich in shades of gray - photos can be taken. In this season both high-contrasted and soft photos can be taken. Lots of promising themes await the enterprising nature photographer from macro to landscape or wildlife photography. It is worth visiting the nearby, promising fields several times in a season, amidst different weather and light conditions as we can take different picture each time. Winter enchants the urban or rural environment too, it is worth shooting frequently. Off we go to winter photography dressed in layers. As they say: there is no bad weather, only an underdressed photographer.
Photo: © László Suhayda

Canon EOS 5D Mark II EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM 1/800 sec f/9 ISO 400

Frosty trees

If we are lucky, in misty and windless periods thick rime can develop on the branches of the trees and if the weather becomes clear afterwards it can be a beautiful sight. It is advisable to use polar filters in sunshine, especially those types with which polarization can be controlled by rotation and the strongest effect can be experienced at 90 degrees from the direction of the Sun. Make sure you avoid overpolarization as you can get ink-blue or almost black sky as a result. If you use polar filters with extra wide-angle lenses make sure that only a part of the area of the sky in the picture is darkened by the filter (depending on the focal length). A dark spot in the lighter sky is usually unnatural. Blue skies maybe with some decorative, subtle clouds match nicely with the white rime-covered trees.

Lake Sinkár

This bigger but shallow artificial lake can be found in Nógrád county, surrounded by hills. As a result of the dammed stream a diverse waterlife developed here which offers numerous photo themes in winter too as these three pictures illustrate it. You should not step on the ice of unknown waters. Even if you are familiar with the lake only step on the ice if it is thick enough to be safe but still be careful as invisible streams or underwater springs can make the ice thin and weak. Never walk on the ice on your own but always with friends.
If the lake freezes over in clear and windless weather its surface will be covered with beautiful mirror ice. The interesting pattern in the first picture is a result of special weather conditions: the partly frozen and the later melting surface was snowed over, then a severe cold spell came. The alternation of the snowy and bare ice surfaces resulted in a form reminiscent of a human eye. The curve caused by the usage of extra-wide-angle lens made the picture more interesting.
Photo: © László Suhayda

Canon EOS 5D Mark II EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye 1/4000 sec f/10 ISO 800
We can find different interesting subjects on the ice surface or frozen in the ice such as this rimy piece of reed in the second picture which stands out nicely against the background of the ice surface reminiscent of the dark, starry sky. Make sure when you choose the viewpoint and the view angle that the sparkling reflection on the ice surface does not spoil the sight of the main subject. (You might experiment with a polarizing filter.) However, if the reflection has a nice colour that could strengthen the enchantment of our composition. We can get different atmospheres from different directions and shooting heights. Be careful, as ice crystals work as a miniature mirror in intense light, therefore overexposure can result in burning out and losing details.
The extended water surface attracts the birds. Underwater springs or the movement of big flocks of birds can maintain bigger iceless surfaces where the birds like to stay during the day or for the night. If it is possible to approach such a place from the opposite direction of the rising Sun, then equipped with long focal-length telephoto lenses we can capture nicely coloured, silhouette pictures during sunrise. Similar ones which can be seen in the third picture. It is worth visiting the place several times as each day can bring different situations depending on the current light conditions, wind, clouds and humidity. Because of the backlight the pictures have to be processed more carefully to set the proper contrast relations experienced on the scene.

Photos of Epöl

A hilly land can be found about 40 km from Budapest to the north-west, where a village called Epöl is the centre surrounded by agricultural fields, groves and woods. The region hides excellent opportunities for composition since the tops of the hills are not covered by forests so the view is unobstructed in all directions. The photographer can find the ideal viewpoint for taking the picture.
In the first picture which shows the characteristics of the land the formerly fallen snow shrank due to a short warm spell and flattened against the clods of the plough showing all the unevenness in the scanning morning light. In clear weather the warm colour of the Sun disappears soon and the snow surface becomes white on the sunny slopes and takes up the cold, bluish colour of the sky on the shaded sides. Thanks to the higher viewpoint I could leave out the not very nice, undetailed sky. The snow-covered land can delude the light meter and as a result we might see gray snow instead of white. Usually you have to overexpose by 1 or even more light value and check the result by viewing or use a histogram.
Photo: © Árpád Krivánszky

Canon EOS 30D EF 28-105mm f/3,5-4,5 1/125 sec f/11 ISO 100
In the second photo the grey cattle are grazing the uncovered parts of the grass and the thinner branches of the scrubby bush in the icy cold weather. An intense, contrasted light illuminated the land. I had to be careful not to have a halved cow in the edges and have at least some of them raising their heads during grazing.
The quiet stream running at the bottom of the hills is worth visiting after a longer frosty period for the different ice formations. On the surface of running waters usually more exciting ice formations develop than on lakes, although these are less-lasting as the flowing water transforms them continuously. Many of them so small sized that it is advisable to use macro or telephoto lenses and extension tubes. It is advisable to take the shot perpendicularly to the ice surface or - in case the ice formation looks better if the lens is held at an angle - a wide aperture to be used to achieve sufficient depth of field. My favourites are the formation reminiscent of a human figure or face or some animal like the ice horse in the third picture.

Flying buzzard

Photo: © László Suhayda

Canon EOS 5D Mark II EF 500mm f/4L IS USM 1/1600 sec f/9 ISO 640
Nature photographers can exploit the low-food season and entice the birds by feeding near the camera. Small songbirds can be enticed by sunflower seeds, birds of prey by chunks of meat. You have to choose a place which birds of prey visit frequently and the building of the hide tent or shack should be finished by the end of autumn so the timid birds could get used to its presence. A nice background should be aesthetic and spacious enough. At least 400-mm telephoto lens is worth trying (in case of glassed hide it can be less) to disturb birds as little as possible and you should also move within the hide very carefully. Long focal length and open aperture can produce nicer backgrounds. Birds look nicer if you capture their behaviour, motion or action rather than showing them pecking the bait. I managed to capture the buzzard against a blurred, partly snowy background in a spectacular phase of flight with nice wing position.
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