Love for snow, riding sleds, and photography

February 22, 2022

A boy sledding on a hillside in Lancaster County

Children and snow can provide a prime source of inspiration. The combination gives us two incredibly important aspects of creating a compelling image – motion and emotion.

We haven’t welcomed a lot of snow here in south central Pennsylvania so far, not the kind that’s ideal for pulling out the plastic sleds and skidding down a hillside. One such storm did arrive the first week of January, and out came my children bundled in coats, hats, and gloves, their green saucers, and my Canon EOS 6D.

The Canon EOS 6D is okay as far as DSLRs go. But it’s great for those who may want to jump into professional grade cameras but aren’t looking for budget busting bodies like the 5D Mark IV or any of the new mirrorless.

It was my first pro camera, and I used it to wonderful success in weddings, headshots, family portraits, and so on.

I use it now for run-of-the-mill family photography (especially when conditions are less-than ideal, such as cold and snow) and as a backup for my portrait or sports sessions.

The lens of choice for this particular day was the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III, which gave me the compression I love as well as allowed me to be distant from the kids.

Shot with a Canon EOS 6D at 1/1600 of a second and f/4.5.

I’ve found that once they hit a certain age, roughly around 4 or 5 year old, they become aware a camera is out and pointed at them. This changes their behavior.

The more I can be distant, the more they forget a camera is documenting what they’re doing, the more natural they act.

I shot these at f/4.5 because I like to give myself enough room for error so the entire subject is in focus. This allowed a shutter speed of 1/1600 to capture action and at an appropriate ISO to permit an appropriate amount of exposure compensation.

When shooting in the snow, we need to override the camera’s instincts. It sees all this white brightness and wants you to make the image darker. If you go with the camera’s instincts instead of your own, the result is gray-colored snow and under exposed images.

We need to meter for about one stop above. It might sound counterintuitive. Why would a photographer want to add more light when there’s already so much due to the snow. But it works.

The majority of these shots are in black-and-white. Why? I think they add a little drama and make them more interesting to look at. The color versions to me seem a little run-of-the-mill.

Black-and-white versions added a little more drama and interest in these images.

Except for this one:

Children look down the hillside in anticipation of a fun sled ride.

I tried it in black-and-white and thought it just didn’t have the same emotional impact. You can see the anticipation better in the color version. Plus, how great is it that they formed a natural diamond shape without any direction from me?

Lastly, what makes capturing children riding sleds after a snowstorm such a great opportunity for photography is the emotion they show.

Let’s face it. Is there a better way to spend a snowy afternoon than riding a piece of slick plastic down a snowy hillside? I think not.

The emotion children show on their faces while riding sleds makes for great photo opportunities.

Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He’s worked in wedding, family, and high school senior portraiture and today owns Creative Sports Photography, which provides portrait services for youth athletes.

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