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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Snowbound


When you travel to South Africa from abroad, you don't usually expect to see snow. You definitely don't expect to be trapped by said fluffy white stuff as it precludes all travel...or at least safe travel. That was the situation myself and the workshop attendees found ourselves in at the end of this month's photography workshop in the Drakensberg. Monday morning came with a couple of inches of snow that just kept on piling up. Roads were closed coming into Phudhaditjaba from just about every direction (that didn't stop some 4x4 nuts though what with the opportunity to see some serious snow...South Africans are mad ;-) ).

I can only commend the people at Witsieshoek Resort for their incredible service during our pleasurable incarceration there. Deon and Isabel were phenomenal hosts, allowing us run of the lodge, excellent food and amazing help with electricity and warmth (they had problems of their own with power outages, diminishing supplies of diesel for the generator and stranded staff members). But throughout they kept a steady supply of hot chocolate and coffee coming through to a group of cold photographers as they capitalized on the downtime to process images and make the odd foray to shoot some snow, build an igloo or toboggan down the driveway of the lodge. I can think of few better places to be snowbound in!

Then this morning the clouds lifted and the Amphitheatre was bathed in magical golden light that sparkled off the virgin snow-field that lay around us. Being South Africa things thaw pretty quickly and the fear of black ice on the road was quickly dispelled as winter wonderland rapidly turned to slush central. Before this though there was plenty of opportunity to capture that golden three-dimensional light as it washed over the Amphitheatre and the Mahai Valley below.

If a photographer happens to come from the northern hemisphere photographing snow can oft
en be a commonplace occurance. For those who it isn't it can be a little frustrating dealing with exposure and the cold. Nowadays modern exposure meters are so good that the old over-exposure of snow requirements isn't quite as important as it used to be. Nikon's 3-D colour meter does an amazing job of handling snow. The occasional 2/3rd over-exposure only ever needed to be dialed in occasionally for effective 'expose the the right' metering (admittedly shooting directly into the sun as it filtered throughlow-lying cloud was a little tricker, but nothing that manual and a peek at the histogram couldn't solve). More confusing to photographers who don't shoot in the snowy conditions is condensation on the lens. As the cold moist air comes into contact with the front element of the lens or a filter - like a graduated ND - condensation forms causing the image to lose contrast and clarity. A simple solution, albeit fiddly, is to blow cold dry air onto the glass with the aid of a blower like the Giottos 'Rocket'. This dries the moisture at the same temperature as the ambient temperature. Trying to blow using your mouth simply puts warm moist air into contact with cold glass. Viola, instant fog filter. So, make sure you have a decent blower when heading out to shoot. It's useful for more than just blowing dust from the sensor.

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