As the famous English playwright and all-round entertainer Noël Coward once sang, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out In The Midday Sun” – I now have my own version: “Mad Photographers and Brits Go Out In The Midday Snow!”
I embarked upon my latest photographic adventure with a definite purpose in mind. Photographs are called “still images” for a definite reason. They freeze moments, as much as winter freezes my fingers as they hold my camera. I wanted to see if I could capture a winter snowstorm in full flow, giving the resulting art photograph the definite impression of what it is like walking along in the midst of a billowing cloud of fat snowflakes. Good weather is always associated with serenity and calmness – basically, it’s just the sun beating down on you, or perhaps a playful, cooling breeze. With bad weather, on the other hand, you see calamity and chaos. Whirling winds, rainstorms that pepper your face with pin-pricking drops of water, or blizzards where your vision becomes jammed with blotches of icy whiteness. Bad weather almost always involves motion, and it is this motion that I intended to capture.
The resulting art photograph you can see above, and I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve. The photograph is made up of three bracketed shots taken at different exposures – one correctly exposed, one darker (underexposed) and one lighter (over exposed). This is called “Exposure bracketing.” I then merged them in post-production using a technique called tone mapping. While I won’t go into technical details this enabled me to make a more satisfactory photograph in terms of what I wanted to achieve, a dreamy-looking snow scene. Tone-mapping is useful for when a scene has stark contrasts. Although this snow scene was a very stark white (with little to no contrast at all), using tone mapping enabled me to bring out the darker shades to produce the complete effect.
I really like what I’ve managed to achieve. The elongation of the snow drops as they fall to their doom suggests motion to me, and gives the photograph a vibrant feel. The patterns they’ve etched on the boats that are moored along the jetty are quite fascinating, if you look closely. The buildings on the left and far in the distance are shrouded by the snowstorm – these buildings are (to the left) the Canada Malting Silos which have been part of Toronto’s heritage since 1928, and in the distance the Harbourfront Community Centre at Bathurst Quay, not to be confused with the Harbourfront Centre on the East side of Queens Quay. Interestingly, the whole Harbourfront Centre was built as the result of a bit of a “sulk” by Toronto after the Canadian federal government had pumped money into Montreal for Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics. The City of Toronto decided to build Harbourfront Centre to boost the city’s industry and tourism and demanded the government help out financially. After all the money handed to Montreal, the government could hardly say no!
I also have a colour version of “Winter Snowstorm” here. I say colour, but such is the completeness of the snow there is hardly any colour to be found! It’s almost as if someone has taken my monochrome print, started to add a little colour in patches, then swiftly become bored! It’s amazing how different the scene looks, just with those little hints of colour here and there. I don’t honestly know which version I prefer, but I do think the monochrome prints suits the title a little better.
This winter hasn’t been great for those who prefer sunny days here in Toronto, but it’s certainly been a bit of an adventure for me as an art print photographer. I’m looking forwards to spring and the photographic opportunities that better weather should bring, but one thing is for sure, I’ve unlikely ever to forget the Toronto winter of 2013/14, and nether, I assume, will many of my fellow Torontonians!