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Gray weather—great photos

water, water everywhere . . . that's the typical Rogue Valley winter, from fog, to rain, to the bright white stuff. But that doesn't mean we've reached the end of the outdoor photography season. As long as you take precautions with your camera, great photos will happen, and all that water is a reason why.

Rain can be an interesting element in photography, says Dan Elster, of Elster Photography in Phoenix. "Rain is part of nature. With a slower shutter speed, you can actually get raindrops falling, which is an interesting effect," he says. Or try water droplets on branches, or water rings in puddles and ponds. With a macro, or close-up feature on your camera, try capturing the tiny reservoirs held in cupped leaves, like lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), which often holds some leaves all winter. "That gives a whole new dimension to your photographs," says Steve Johnson, owner of Visual Images Photography in Medford. "Everything is glistening."

Gray skies can prove to be a Rogue Valley winter photography advantage, says Elster. "It gives a nice diffused light." That means shadows are nearly invisible, and imperfections are softened.

"Diffused light makes it especially easy to shoot close-ups and photos of flowers," says Johnson. Small spots of color in a muted field will stand out more: a single surprising rose, which you can sometimes find blooming in our warmest areas. Look for winter blooming pansies, hellebores, camellias or the many varieties of heaths (Erica carnea, the bushier E. darleyensis and E. erigena) that also bloom during the winter.

Pictures tend to turn really blue in winter light, so set your light balance for a cloudy day. "It's fine if you are shooting snow, where blue is nice," says Johnson, "but if you are shooting plant life you want your green to be green."

When snow is on the ground it reflects light, but it can fool the light meter in your camera so your photos come out underexposed — too dark. "The camera gets fooled and thinks it's lighter outside than it really is," says Elster. The remedy is to slow down the exposure time.

In electronic cameras, use the exposure compensation at a plus one on a cloudy day, or plus two in sunshine. Make sure to look at your preview screen, and if the subject is too dark add exposure time," says Johnson.

Pam Lott, of Pam Lott Photography in Ashland, suggests looking for an exposure lock control on your point-and-shoot camera, so you can compensate by metering on a more neutral area of the scene. Here's how: Fill the frame of the viewfinder with a DARKER (not too dark) area and depress the exposure lock button. The camera meter will overexpose the scene based upon the dark area that you metered. Take several shots with different exposures.

Remember the temperature change from indoor warmth to outdoor air can cause your lens to fog up, or worse, cause condensation that can damage your camera. (See side for wet weather camera care.) Put the camera — in the bag — outside before shooting, or take some extra time to investigate your garden for great shots. And don't forget your breath can fog a shot . . . or maybe add an interesting element to your photograph.

The lack of foliage is another opportunity to investigate other elements. "The trees are bare and that's a beautiful thing," Elster says. Bark, lichen and mosses are all more interesting in winter. Foraging birds rustle leaves and the lack of cover means better photo opportunities. Chickadees, nuthatches, hummingbirds and lesser goldfinch are all in the area, at feeders and along shrub borders.

So, with careful camera care, you can take advantage of our wet season. You get outdoors and, who knows, you may even come up with a few shots for your holiday cards.

Gray weather—great photos