Old 02-08-2016, 03:00 AM   #1
Eugene
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Default Snow shots, help please

I have very little experience with shooting trains in the snow, I attempted these during winter storm Jonas in NYC. Both were taken into the wind and driving snow and I wanted to capture the mood of the storm and trains appearing out of the gloom in the white out conditions. Any comments will be welcomed!
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...64&key=2510161
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...68&key=9936004

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Old 02-08-2016, 03:50 AM   #2
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The second one was rejected for a totally ridiculous reason--"too soft?" Cripes. Does that screener live in Florida and has no idea what heavy snow does? I'll give you a few tips, maybe. I was out this afternoon and then after dark chasing trains in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it turned into a total white out on me. I couldn't have seen a train if it was 20 feet from me. Hell, half the time I couldn't even find MN Hwy 23 and I was on it! The only way I managed to get out was by keeping my right front tire on the rumble strip on the side of the road and hope no one was parked over it. It's a bit unsettling to be driving when you can't even see the end of the hood on your car, and know there could be someone driving ten feet behind YOU and they can't see you either.

Anyway, first tip is to avoid shooting directly into wind driven snow. It will quickly turn the lens into a watery mess. ALWAYS use a lens hood. (I always use one anyway, even at night.) Both of the shots you posted above were too wide, you need to zoom in a bit for more impact. Remember that distance adds density, and you do that with a long lens. (Unless you're in a total white out and it won't matter what lens you have anyway.) Try to use as fast a shutter speed as you can. (Turn off VR if shooting above 1/500s--it's counterproductive.) You're going to have to dial up ISO to at least 800 and probably more than that, most of the time. Unless you're using an expensive camera, your camera is likely going to have trouble getting focus. A good trick for that is to pre-focus on the rail ahead of the train, press & hold AF lock, and snap the shot when the train reaches that spot. I wouldn't worry too much about DoF since most of the train will be engulfed. So, open up wide and say, "AHHH." It's all about shutter speed. I got to go.


Kent in SD

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Old 02-08-2016, 06:27 AM   #3
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Image too dark is easy to fix - just brighten it up.

RP, and even some folks in "real life" may prefer a brighter image even if reality states the darker version is the as seen version. You'll have to decide in that case if it's worth the fix to get it on RP.

How do you brighten an image?

Brightness adjustment
Exposure adjustment
Shadows (and highlight) filters
Shadow fill adjustment
Curves
Levels

...and I'm sure there are many others.

Shadow brightening is perhaps the best as it tends not brighten the brighter parts of the image. One trick of the trade to use when brightening a scene is to "select color range" and sample the brightest part of the scene (say, headlights or the Sun), then invert the selection, feather and go ahead and brighten the entire scene - the brightest brights will not be affected. You could use the magic wand, instead of "select color range", and I'll assume there is a luminescence mask you could use as well.

For the second image - Undersharpened. That's trickier. Real life, as seen often suggests that that is in fact how the scene looked. Once again, based on appeal vs reality, you can edit a fix - contrast, "clarity" which is mostly mid-range only contrast, further sharpening, of course with tweaks in the "radius". Or, use the right equipment for the shot. And or, the right camera settings.

High shutter speed will freeze the snow - sometimes that's good, other times, it simply looks like noise (often).

Slow shutter speeds - if fast enough to stop the train, can be appealing in capturing the motion of the falling snow (or rain), but instead of noise, you may get softness.

Wider aperatures will show less snow (and rain) and give fluffy snow (bigger rain drops) while small aperatures will yeild more snow flakes and rain drops become much more visible in the shot.

I'd be interested in hearing what others say as I've had my own issues that need resolution:

Falling snow and rain captured at shutter speeds required to stop a train often look like high ISO noise - even more so with a telephoto lens.

Focusing - my success rate with my Canon 5D Mark III is really poor in falling snow (and backlit conditions). With either condition, Kent's method is sound, though, you have to be satisfied with getting just one shot realizing, at the same time, that that is going to be the only frame to choose from.

/Mitch
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Old 02-08-2016, 12:55 PM   #4
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Thanks Kent and Mitch very much for your detailed comments

Both these shots were taken with my Nikon D90 and Nikkor 18-200 zoom, set at 200mm, 1/250 sec @ f8 and ISO 200. The originals were underexposed, but since they were shot in RAW format, I was able to do a fair amount of editing in Lightroom to get to what you see in these rejections.

Back to the editing I go....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noct Foamer View Post
Anyway, first tip is to avoid shooting directly into wind driven snow. It will quickly turn the lens into a watery mess. ALWAYS use a lens hood. (I always use one anyway, even at night.).... Both of the shots you posted above were too wide, you need to zoom in a bit for more impact.
Thanks Kent, I do use a lens hood 90% of the time. I do have a shot where I zoomed in more and the train was closer, I'll give that one a try.

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Old 02-08-2016, 02:03 PM   #5
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Snow can trick the meter on the D90. The meter is constantly trying to create an "average" exposure. When it sees a scene that is brighter than it thinks it should be, it tries to darken it. There are two ways around this. First is to dial in about -0.66 or -0.5 exposure compensation. (See your manual.) This adjusts the meter to take into account the whiteness of the snow. Second method is to put camera in manual mode, take some test shots, and adjust using histogram. This method also has the bonus of preventing any headlights from making the scene too dark. If you do a lot of this sort of thing, consider getting a lens that allows more light into the camera to help focusing. A used Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 would do it well.


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Old 02-08-2016, 03:29 PM   #6
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The D90 and 18-200mm f3.5-4.5 VR combination can work OK in the snow. I took these at Nevada Northern with exactly that combination back in 2009 and I really liked how they turned out:

Image © Kevin Madore
PhotoID: 302673
Photograph © Kevin Madore

Image © Kevin Madore
PhotoID: 302549
Photograph © Kevin Madore


These were shot as JPEGs and not very heavily edited. I used the method that Kent described wherein I took test shots and used the histogram to ensure they were properly exposed. Camera meters do tend to underestimate exposure requirements in scenes containing a lot of snow.

One of the biggest issues with shooting in falling snow is keeping the the flakes far enough away from the front element of your lens so that you don't have big, fuzzy flakes obscuring important parts of your image. A big lens hood really helps. Those small petal hoods like the one on the Nikkor 18-200mm VR just don't cut it. In the above images, I screwed on a big rubber hood that would vignette if I shot the lens wider than about 35 mm....but it worked great for telephoto. My ultimate goal is to make a shade custom shade like the one Jim Thias has on his avatar. That looks like the right tool for the job. It probably helps to shoot bursts as well, so if one frame has an annoying big flake, it may be gone in subsequent frames.
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Old 02-08-2016, 05:12 PM   #7
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I'm not a fan of either one. But I live in Florida, so maybe my opinion doesn't matter.
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Old 02-08-2016, 05:44 PM   #8
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The stated goal was to catch the train coming out of the snow gloom.
I think 200mm is a little far in heavy snow. The snow is too grey??? and there is a lack of objects like in Kevin's to provide some interest and background for the snow.

I use the white eye dropper in curves which gets snow way too white, then fade back, or use one of Mitch's suggestions. I think little underexposure is OK and can be corrected, not sure how bad it was to start?

I have a few similar rejections and never pursued them. At any rate they(referring to mine) looked just like a grey soup and I felt I could fix one problem only to uncover another. I am very lazy and don't use a hood. I try like Kevin's one shot inside the engine house or find some covering, similar in the sun I will "hide" behind a pole, etc. I also sometimes use a pole or sign, car door etc as a 3 point brace shooting on continuous in place of a tripod.

Bob

Some may comment they were a little generous accepting these but the point is at 200mm there would be little to see and in both cases I had some cover

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Old 02-08-2016, 07:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
I have very little experience with shooting trains in the snow, I attempted these during winter storm Jonas in NYC. Both were taken into the wind and driving snow and I wanted to capture the mood of the storm and trains appearing out of the gloom in the white out conditions. Any comments will be welcomed!
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...64&key=2510161
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...68&key=9936004

Eugene
The first one is just too murky.

The second one I like, but you really need to get rid of all that undesirable magenta noise.

I would try something like this (desaturate>cool>enhance the train lights>sharpen):
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:29 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by troy12n View Post
I'm not a fan of either one. But I live in Florida, so maybe my opinion doesn't matter.
Thanks for that Troy , I can't help that you live in Florida, but mother nature is really getting peed off with us earthlings so you may just get snow one day...

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Old 02-08-2016, 10:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noct Foamer View Post
Snow can trick the meter on the D90. The meter is constantly trying to create an "average" exposure. When it sees a scene that is brighter than it thinks it should be, it tries to darken it. There are two ways around this. First is to dial in about -0.66 or -0.5 exposure compensation. (See your manual.) This adjusts the meter to take into account the whiteness of the snow. Second method is to put camera in manual mode, take some test shots, and adjust using histogram. This method also has the bonus of preventing any headlights from making the scene too dark. If you do a lot of this sort of thing, consider getting a lens that allows more light into the camera to help focusing. A used Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 would do it well.
Thanks Kent, I shoot in manual mode 99% of the time, that comes from using a Nikon FM2 with film for years..... I've studied how the metering works, but I just keep going back to manual! Thanks for the tip on the lens.

And thanks to Miningcamper, Rob and Kevin for your input as well, much appreciated!

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Old 02-09-2016, 01:58 AM   #12
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In the real world, snow generally just reflects whatever color the sky is. On sunny days it turns white in open sun (i.e. daylight balance 5600K,) but in open shade the snow actually is blue--reflecting the color of the sky. On gray days the snow really is gray--reflecting the color of the sky. I think of snow as a projection screen.


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Old 02-09-2016, 05:10 AM   #13
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While you were near my home shooting at 96 St, I was out in Queens.

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This shot I did in 2008 just up the line from your shot and it was rejected for being too dark.
Throwing my principles in the trash can, I cranked the grey up to snow white, blowing out the headlights. It was one of my first successful shots here. Since then my principles have stayed in the trash can.

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My take away is that forevermore with RP, they like snow to be a pretty white, not a realistic grey.
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Old 02-09-2016, 02:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post

My take away is that forevermore with RP, they like snow to be a pretty white, not a realistic grey.
I agree with you there. Here are some snowy shots I have had accepted recently.

Image © Michael Berry
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Image © Michael Berry
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Image © Michael Berry
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Old 02-09-2016, 05:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis A. Livesey View Post
This shot I did in 2008 just up the line from your shot and it was rejected for being too dark.
Throwing my principles in the trash can, I cranked the grey up to snow white, blowing out the headlights. It was one of my first successful shots here. Since then my principles have stayed in the trash can.

Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 224822
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey


My take away is that forevermore with RP, they like snow to be a pretty white, not a realistic grey.
Too white, or not too white, that is the question that has plagued us all at one time or another! Real life, or pretty - or maybe the real life just happens to be the pretty shot. That's one of the benefits of those "similar to previous" shots getting accepted on RP. We get to compare edits - sometimes we find one to be more appealing, other times, we find our appealing shots were edited past reality.

Dennis - you would benefit from my technique explained above - selecting the headlights (or brightest parts of the scene) and editing them separately from the rest of the scene.

Bob - I like both your shots! Very nicely captured. I'd make one suggestion, however - the CSX shot looks to me just a little bit to "warm" /yellowish as if it was taken in October instead of February. I'd cool it down (Temperature, or "auto-color", perhaps, or simply bump up the blues in color balance while dropping the yellows and reds.

Kevin - I like your shots. One cool thing about a photo charter is with a little work, you can typically find someone who did a video of the scene you captured - that's a pretty good way to judge temperature. Without that, I did take a quick gander at your second shot, the vertical. I thought it might benefit from some brightening, while at the same time, some shadows and highlight filtering. Shadows to brighten the scene (and snow in front of the smoke box) and highlights to bring out the detail in the sky and background.

I like to look back at the RAW when I'm done editing to make sure the photo is still accurate and pretty close to as seen.

Now - don't get me wrong - I've spent way too much time on some shots only to re-edit from scratch the next day or a year later!

/Mitch
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Old 02-09-2016, 05:28 PM   #16
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For those interested, I had created an album on RP called "Snow Storm".

I knew I created it long ago but just realized I had not populated it. I'll do a search on RP in the next few days and expand the collection - if anyone has some really good examples, send me a link - though, be wary, I may be more difficult then the current screeners, lol.

"Snow Storm" - Photos featuring snow - in the air:
http://www.railpictures.net/album/2847/

Back to the thread - would it not be accurate to say the most important factor in getting a good snow shot are the conditions? A sure way, I think?, to question your ability is to try to capture trains in the snow when the snow is wet and /or misty. I don't know if there is any way to captured light misty wet snow where it does not simply look like noise? It does help when, however, if when it is misty, it's at least very dense:

The Good:

Image © Mitch Goldman
PhotoID: 517781
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Old 02-09-2016, 07:07 PM   #17
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All noise like this. Smile.
Image © Mitch Goldman
PhotoID: 564873
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Somehow those numbers came thru and saved the day???

With snow, fog and rain, isn't it "be careful what you wish for".
We want just enough, not too much but...........


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Old 02-09-2016, 07:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgoldman View Post
For those interested, I had created an album on RP called "Snow Storm".

I knew I created it long ago but just realized I had not populated it. I'll do a search on RP in the next few days and expand the collection - if anyone has some really good examples, send me a link - though, be wary, I may be more difficult then the current screeners, lol.

/Mitch
Here's a few that may qualify...

Image © Michael Berry
PhotoID: 474833
Photograph © Michael Berry


Image © Michael Berry
PhotoID: 473447
Photograph © Michael Berry


Image © Michael Berry
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Image © Michael Berry
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:04 PM   #19
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All noise like this. Smile.
Image © Mitch Goldman
PhotoID: 564873
Photograph © Mitch Goldman

Somehow those numbers came thru and saved the day???

With snow, fog and rain, isn't it "be careful what you wish for".
We want just enough, not too much but...........
Bob
Egads! What a mess!

Look for a new edit shortly.

Safe to assume edits used to brighten the scene contributed to the extra noise, along with the extra sharpening which is (was?) obvious by way of the colors (lots of greens and purples). The snow became too sharp, as well, ie; it lost whatever fluff it had.

Frustrating conditions - I was happy to have the opportunity, but getting the camera to capture what your eyes see can be quite difficult. I had to underexpose for the headlights, then later adjust contrast and sharpening to bring clarity. In all actuality, and looking at the RAW, it's a rather dark and blue scene. Perhaps a 3rd edit down the line...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mberry View Post
Here's a few that may qualify...
Done, done, done, done and done.

However - I feel that all but the one with the lady standing on the platform may be a bit warm?

/Mitch
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Old 02-10-2016, 11:01 PM   #20
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While you were near my home shooting at 96 St, I was out in Queens.

Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 563570
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey


This shot I did in 2008 just up the line from your shot and it was rejected for being too dark.
Throwing my principles in the trash can, I cranked the grey up to snow white, blowing out the headlights. It was one of my first successful shots here. Since then my principles have stayed in the trash can.

Image © Dennis A. Livesey
PhotoID: 224822
Photograph © Dennis A. Livesey
Nice shot in Queens Dennis, BTW your home must be near my new home

Guess I'll have to follow your lead, throw my principles in the trash can as well and live with the "too white is better than grey" snow

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Old 02-14-2016, 11:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Noct Foamer View Post
Both of the shots you posted above were too wide, you need to zoom in a bit for more impact. Remember that distance adds density, and you do that with a long lens.
Following Kent's advice, I tried working on a different shot from the same storm where I had zoomed in more. I included a "note to screener" about shooting into the wind and the shot actually being sharp.......and so I got a rejection for loose composition
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...10&key=7577599

I cropped all round and resubmitted with notes, now it's a balance issue, subject akwardly positioned
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...56&key=2431983

Maybe I need to go walk in the cold and clear my head!

Any comments?

Eugene

Last edited by Eugene; 02-14-2016 at 11:40 PM. Reason: incorrect links
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Old 02-15-2016, 02:38 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
Following Kent's advice, I tried working on a different shot from the same storm where I had zoomed in more. I included a "note to screener" about shooting into the wind and the shot actually being sharp.......and so I got a rejection for loose composition
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...10&key=7577599

I cropped all round and resubmitted with notes, now it's a balance issue, subject akwardly positioned
http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...56&key=2431983

Maybe I need to go walk in the cold and clear my head!

Any comments?

Eugene
When you're almost on top of the train like you are there, a vertical composition tends to work better. That may be what they want.
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Old 02-15-2016, 02:49 AM   #23
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They are telling you all the action is on the left side - fences, trees, maintenance platform, etc - and the right side has little, so imbalanced.
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:12 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
I cropped all round and resubmitted with notes, now it's a balance issue, subject akwardly positioned


Maybe I need to go walk in the cold and clear my head!

Any comments?

Eugene

I agree the second shot works better as a vertical--less empty space. As for walking in the cold and clearing your head, when I do that my nose just gets full of boogers.



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