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Snow and color contrast -- Indianapolis photography, tips and travels

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By Steve Polston

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The Polar Vortex seems to be loosening its spiral -- good thing, because cabin fever has just about sapped my enthusiasm for re-runs on free Internet TV channels. Time to bust out the camera and look for interesting color and light contrasts in the Indianapolis landscape.

A problem with photography that always has existed is the extreme light and dark contrasts on sunny days, and the effect that snow has on a scene, especially that camera meters tend to render snow as blue in an effort to average out light and dark and achieve "white balance." Camera algorithms attempt to optimize grayscales in an effort to overcome blue snow.

Matters not that you are using film or digital -- the snow can turn blue if the camera is not properly metering extreme contrasts.

Underexposing will help harden the contrasts, if you wish, as will overexposing. Sometimes the middle values just can't be found -- such as at Noon or 1 p.m. when the shadowland of photography is difficult to discern.

I decided to look for square scenes in my oblong viewfinder and frame scenes based on shadows and blocks of color. This meant that extreme contrasts would become part of my compositions in order to accentuate the modernist angularity of cityscapes and street photography.

The effort to find strong compositions was challenged by the tandem effort to look for strong colors. Vernacular architecture in old neighborhoods and with modern construction in new neighborhoods lends itself well to strong colors and the northern style of architecture provides overhangs to maximize winter light and minimize summer sun. I looked for this as part of my working method.

If you take similar approaches with your cameras, I guarantee that photography in extreme weather will be fun.

You can see more of my photography on this website at, and on my own website at