Snow : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Talk about post trip blues........developed about 20 sheets of TMax last night, after 3 days in the snowy mountains of northern Japan, and several negatives are clearly underexposed - i.e. the snow will be grey when printed. Now, I metered the snow carefully with a Pentax spotmeter, and placed its value on zone 7.5 or thereabouts, and also compensated 2 stops for the orange filter I was using to reduce the blueness of the light - what has happened, therefore, to give the exposure error? If the light is very bright, will this throw a meter reading off? What is the normal difference in stops between snow in full sunlight, and snow in shade?

-- fw (, February 27, 2000


Zone 7.5 isn't really as white as I think you wanted. I would imagine you would have needed at least a zone 8 - 9 depending on the lighting conditions of the scene.

-- mark lindsey (, February 28, 2000.

I agree with the previous respondent. A higher value for the snow was probably in order. Have you had your meter calibrated ? I sent mine in to Zone VI a few years ago and it was worth the investment. I maintain a more linear relationship over the exposure range. Uncalibrated, the tendency is to compress values on the high end. Testing how a meter responds in situations you just experienced can provide you the adjustment requirements without the investment, but it really bites to learn this lesson in the field. Believe me, we have all been there.

-- Michael Kadillak (, February 28, 2000.

I have my 30 yr old Ansel book #4 in my hot little hands and he "sez"sunlit snow should be placed in zone VIII. He makes two statments re: Sun-lit snow in sun and the reflective glare of sunlight snow. The latter is about 2X the value. Snow in shade is 1/4 the value of sunlit snow or 2 stops.

-- George Nedleman (, February 28, 2000.

FW: Sounds kinda pretentious for a guy from Alabama to be answering a question on snow, but I shoot a lot on the white sand Florida beaches and know the problem you have. Agree that very white sand or snow should be placed on Zone VIII. The specular highlights throw the meter off. George's mention of Ansel Adams jogged my memory about a solution you might try to salvage the negs. Adams suggested toning the negs in selenium to increase printing density. It may be worth a try. I would start with a couple of the less important shots and see what happens. Best I can remember, you tone a neg about the same as you do paper. Hope this helps, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (, February 28, 2000.

FW, yes take a look in Adams book "The Negative". As the previous poster indicates you can selenium tone your negative and most likely get 3/4 to 1 more stop of contrast. Might be the solution to the problem. Let us know what happens.

-- (, February 28, 2000.

Thanks for the response ; I was also re-reading "The Negative" last night, wondering why I hadn't bothered to do this before my trip, and Adams' comments on photographing snow are, as usual, very helpful. In particular, it's the first time I have seen how a blue filter might be used in the field. The interesting thing is that most of the accompanying illustrations show a fair proportion of grey snow!

The difficulty in my pictures is with a large triangular area of shaded snow which was running (like a sand dune) away from the camera to a river flowing across the picture, with the Hakuba mountains in the background. The sun was low in the west, so this part of the snow was in shade, with the other riverbank in full sunlight. The snow in full sunlight will print as white, but the shaded snow will be, probably, zone 5-ish. Probably because of the orange filter, this shaded area has a lot of texture. Perhaps 30-40% more development time would have pushed the shaded area to zone 6, but I think that the snow in full sunlight would then have burnt out. I didn't consider an N-1 at the time, partly because I was freezing after having waded for half a mile through waist high snow to get to this spot, and also because the metered range of light didn't seem to be that great - possibly the specular highlights from the snow were so bright that the metered range was distorted.

I think the selenium is a good idea, and if I can find some here I'll give it a try. Fortunately I took several shots, with both 90 and 65 mm lenses.

-- fw (, February 28, 2000.

Zone V sounds about right for fully shaded snow to me. Be careful of intensifying and/or printing on contrastier paper as the zone V snow may end up even darker. Anything you want detail in must be a little grey in the print, only Zone IX white, which has no detail approaches minimum paper density. You'd be surprised how brilliant grey snow can look if done right. The trick is to strive for a feeling of luminence, not "brightness". Good luck printing! ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, March 01, 2000.

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