Ski Trails Through A Winter Scene
I live in Norway.
For those who don’t know, this is way up north in Europe.
In latitude it’s about as far north as the middle of Canada.
The climate here allows for some very different seasons, from cold and snowy winters, to warm (and in recent years rainy) summers, and everything in between.
The current winter season came a little late here in eastern Norway. It wasn’t that cold, and we didn’t get that much snow until Christmas. Although, when the snow finally came, it came in spades.
January has seen about 30 inches (76 cm) of snow here. It’s covering the ground and trees, making beautiful winter scenes all over.
Skiing of all kinds is a favorite pastime for Norwegians. Downhill, ski jumping, cross-country. “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet” is a well-known saying here.
Although when it comes to cross-country skiing most people enjoy ready-made ski tracks prepared by machines, some of us also enjoy going off-track. Straight into the woods. Making the tracks ourselves.
What kind of skiing equipment did I use?
For this kind of off-track cross-country skiing, I use skis that are a bit wider and shorter than what you would normally use in groomed trails. It allows me maneuverability and prevents me from sinking too deep into the powder snow. A well-fitted pair of ski boots is also important to provide stability on the skis.
Then there’s the question of the ski poles. On this particular day I had forgot mine at home, and I had to use some old bamboo ones I found in a shed. My grandfather used those 50 years ago. For a comfortable ski trip, you would want poles that have the right length relative to how tall you are.
You can find a thorough guide on how to choose cross-country touring skis, bindings, boots and poles here.
What kind of photo gear did I bring?
Did you think by telling this story that I would stray from what is the topic of this blog, namely photography?
Of course I brought my camera. I actually brought two. My Pentax K-5 with the Sigma 150-500mm lens attached (in case of any wildlife or bird photo ops), and the Pentax K-7 with the Sigma 10-20mm lens attached (for landscape shots). Both securely packed in my backpack.
I also brought my tripod attached to my backpack, and my small IR remote control in my pocket.
This day wasn’t that cold, and the trip I was planning wasn’t that long. Otherwise, I would have taken the batteries from the cameras and put them in my inside jacket pocket to keep them warm. Cold weather can severely reduce battery life.
Skiing in a winter wonderland
I set off into the snow-covered forest.
I was skiing on a gravel road that’s not used in winter so the underlying terrain was quite even.
It had snowed a lot the night before so it was quite heavy moving forward, as I was sinking deep into the fresh powder snow.
Although it’s a bit heavy, I love being in the outdoors this way. Feeling almost like an explorer breaking new ground through the fresh snow, even if it’s a route I’ve walked and skied hundreds of times before.
When I had gotten a couple of miles in, I stopped.
Just to listen.
Just to listen to…………nothing.
In wintertime with snow-covered ground and trees on a day with no wind, the silence is loud. Not even birds chirping.
The only thing you can hear is your own breath, or heart beating.
I was feeling very much alive.
An intense feeling of being a part of nature.
I went on for a little while longer, until it was time for a little break.
When I stopped this time and turned, I saw the winter scene that’s in the picture at the top of this post.
How did I photograph this winter scene?
It was only 4 pm, but the sun was setting (the days are short in winter this far north) and painted the sky pink over the trees. That was what first caught my eye.
I know these moments of color are fleeting so I hurried to get my backpack off, and found my camera gear.
Trying to hurry with skis on your feet can be an interesting experience.
A bit of fumbling, and skis and poles all over later, I was ready to set up my camera and tripod.
Now the pink paint on the sky was gone, that’s how fleeting that was.
After a moment of disappointment, I decided that the winter scene itself, without the pink sky was worth taking a picture of.
I set up my tripod by poking the tripod legs through the snow, until they hit solid ground. It’s possible to buy little snowshoes that attach to your tripod legs, but if it’s practical to get down to solid ground, it will be more stable.
I set up my K-7 with the Sigma 10-20mm, prefocused at 1 meter (3 feet) just as I did photographing the ice and water, to take advantage of the hyperfocal distance.
Using aperture priority mode I set the aperture to f/16 knowing I would get an image that’s nice and sharp all the way through.
I dialed in an exposure compensation of +1.7 EV (it turned out later that this was a bit too bright). That’s because all this white snow is fooling the cameras light meter to think that the scene is brighter than it actually is.
These kind of snowy scenes require an exposure compensation of about +1 to +2 EV depending on where the sun is and the overall brightness of the scene.
After dialing in +1.7 EV, the light meter gave a shutter speed of 5.0 seconds.
I triggered the camera with my IR remote control.
The settings for this picture summed up was:
20mm, f/16, 5.0sec, ISO100
I took several photos, with both horizontal and vertical framing, but this was the one I was most satisfied with this time.
What kind of post-processing did I do with this image?
Not much really.
I realized that I had compensated a bit much on the exposure, so I had to turn down the total exposure about 0,7 EV and the highlights a bit too in Adobe Lightroom.
Then I did nothing else except minor adjustments to the contrast and sharpening.
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