How I Got the Shot: Shadows and Snow

by Mark Bowie | Photography


Shadows and Snow Patterns, Browns Tract Inlet

Exposure Data:

Six exposures: each 1/30 second, f/16, ISO 100 

Nikon D610, Nikkor 80-400mm lens set at 160mm

Freshly fallen snow on grand mountainscapes is certainly photogenic, but I’ve also found that blanketing snows provide a clean white canvas on which nature paints beautiful, more intimate scenes. These “small” landscapes can be anywhere. On frozen Brown’s Tract Inlet I found low angle sunrise light casting long shadows. The strong directional light told a narrative, from right to left, of how wind blows across the frozen stream, sculpting razor-edge formations on the leeside of the lit mound. The blue shadows, which reflected the sky’s color, led my eye to the snow sculptures, in pleasing contrast with the warmer magentas and whites.

I wanted to isolate this section from the overall scene—excluding nearby distracting elements—so I zoomed in with a long lens and shot six overlapping images to create the panorama. I could have used a wide-angle lens then cropped the image, but with the longer lens I was able to maintain the stature of the details and expand camera resolution. The final image is about 18,000 by 4,000 pixels and could handle significant enlargement.

What could have been glossed over as a run-of-the-mill, plentiful subject, now draws us as a storyteller. Sidelighting showcases the subtle gradations of color and texture. The image is simple and elegant, a haiku poem written on snow.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations to camera clubs, environmental groups and others. He has released a new e-book, Finding November, about his quest to seek hidden beauty beyond the month’s bare trees and gray skies. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute (API).  See API’s 2016 schedule of photo workshops, including Mark’s annual winter workshop, at  For more on Mark’s work, visit

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