This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
663. In making snow pictures, aside from the selection of view the principal secret lies in the proper exposure and the angle of light. Early in the forenoon, before 9 o'clock, or in the afternoon after 2 o'clock, will give you excellent angles. The very best results are obtained early in the morning, when the shadows are long. As the white snow supplies a strong reflector, exposure will necessarily be very much shortened. Snow pictures can be successfully made only in bright sunlight, as you must have some high-lights and shadows, even in the pure white snow. Therefore, the angle of light at which the sun falls upon the objects in the snow (producing long or short shadows) has much to do with the success of the view.
664. In making pictures with snow on the ground, the exposure must be made in bright sunlight, and the time necessary for the exposure would be one-half of the exposure given under ordinary conditions. For instance, if you were making an exposure under ordinary conditions, giving l-25th of a second, the same view made with snow on the ground must be made in half the time, or l-50th of a second. Should the sun be obscured, it would be difficult to secure an interesting picture. If pictures must be made with a cloudy sky and snow on the ground, the exposure given should never be more than half of that required for pictures of the same scene without snow. You must remember that we do not see light, light enables us to see. The plate is made sensitive to light, for the simple reason that light is the only agent that can and does record the image on the plate. Therefore, with a sharp focus of the object, a normal exposure and proper development, a negative should result which will represent the contrast of light and shade exactly as it is in the view.
665. It will be well to remember that when making pictures with snow on the ground, and in bright sunlight, the angle of the sunlight should never be towards the camera, even when coming from one side, but should be directed towards the object you are photographing, as the reflection from the snow is always thrown in the same direction in which the rays of the sun travel. If this direction is towards the object you are photographing, the object will be strongly illuminated by the reflection. If it should be toward the lens, then the plate, through the lens, receives the flood of reflected light, thus causing fog.
666. Even with the sun at the correct angle there will appear, by prolonged exposure, a certain amount of strong light between the object you are photographing and the lens. The distance is sure to be obliterated and your shadows will have little or no detail, unless some means are available for reducing the activity of the strong reflection of the sunlight upon the snow. Under ordinary conditions (without snow on the ground), if you desired to produce more detail, you would prolong the exposure and thereby secure detail in the shadows; but with snow on the ground, prolonged exposure to any great extent would be of no avail, because the strong reflection from the snow would cause a curtain of strong light between the lens and the object you are photographing. This curtain would reflect stronger light upon the plate than the actual light visible on the object to be photographed.
JANUARY FROST Study No. ii - See Page 372 By Sweet Bros.
667. The sensitized plate is always attracted by the strongest lights first, whether reflected or direct, and in con sequence the more subdued lights are left very hazy and misty in the shadows, so the only way this haze and mist can be overcome is by quick exposure.
668. Strong sunlight on the white snow, especially where the sun faces the instrument, will have the same effect upon the lens and plate as it would upon the human eye, when looking at the snow with the sun shining on it. In the latter case, the eyes are weakened and almost blinded by the dazzling white light. By looking across a plain of snow at some distant object, with the sun shining toward you, you would scarcely see the object, and the longer you look the less you can see. This is exactly what happens to the sensitized plate through the lens, so that the longer the exposure, under the named conditions, the less the lens will see. The result is that you have little detail on your exposed plate, and, like the human eye, the plate will have fogged over and the image will appear veiled.
669. You will observe when you first glance at the snow, even with the sun at one side instead of facing you, your vision is clear and you can see all the detail. After a second or so, however, the eyes weaken by the blazing light. Therefore, the short exposure on your plate will give you the same results and you will get plenty of detail, while with a longer exposure you get fog.
(the reflection of the sun on the snow) will be reduced enough to give a good rendering in the negative in the amount of high-lights and the detail in the shadows. This ray filter has the same effect upon the plate as a pair of smoked or blue glasses would have over the eyes, for with them we would be able to look at the sun a long time without straining the eyes. With a ray filter longer exposure may be given the plate, if necessary, without fog. The color of the ray filter should be light amber. This will act on the lens as the glasses would on the eyes. By giving a slightly longer exposure when using the ray filter, you will preserve the detail in the foreground and at the same time have detail in the shadows.
671. There are many good ray filters on the market and they are inexpensive. They can be obtained from any dealer in photographic supplies. In ordering ray filters always be sure to give the exact outside measurement of the lens the filter is to fit over.
672. For an ordinary landscape in winter, a view point must be selected that will give good shadows. The light should come from one side and not directly back of you. A low sun is preferable, as it supplies long shadows; therefore, the best effects will be obtained early in the morning or late in the afternoon. A very quick exposure must be given, for the shadows are fully illuminated by the reflection from the snow. A smaller stop can be used for snow pictures than other views, the reflection of light being so much greater. The immediate foreground of a snow scene must be broken up with some dark objects - anything that will supply shadows or dark spots. A few tracks on a level expanse of snow will give some shadow and add greatly to the effect.
673. Some very picturesque scenes can frequently be obtained after a heavy fall of snow. Places, which ordinarily would be anything but attractive, make very pretty pictures with snow on the ground. Snow pictures, to be interesting, must always have some objects that will throw shadows, in order to break the mass of white. For example, take an old rail fence loaded with snow, along a driveway; the shadows from the old rails upon the snow give a pretty effect. For another, take a roadway with low shrubbery along the banks, limbs of trees covered with snow. The contrast between the dead black trees, the shrubbery and the snow, makes them appear really beautiful. Again, we have an open field, a single log hut or an old barn, a corn crib in the barn-yard, all of which make interesting pictures if they are photographed with the proper light to produce long shadows.