How I Got the Shot: Falling Snow, Chestertown

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Exposure Data:
4 seconds, f/4.5, ISO 200
Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-70mm lens set at 29mm.

In the latter stages of a snowfall that would eventually drop about three feet on Chestertown, I stepped outside under darkening twilight and into a winter wonderland. The snow had already piled up on the roof of this home and wood shed.  It blanketed the ground and engulfed the seats of the swing set. The blue light of the sky, reflected in the tree shadows, provided a pleasing contrast to the warm glow of the house and the green tungsten light over the shed. But what made the scene so magical was the falling snow. 

With my camera, if I wanted an image with low noise, I had to shoot at a relatively low ISO. The darkness demanded that, even with a wide aperture, I shoot long exposures. I made several attempts, but the snow streaked; it wasn’t in one place long enough to register as individual flakes and the images didn’t convey the charm I felt. So I raised the camera’s little pop-up flash and tried more. Achieving a pleasing result took several attempts because the flash bounced off snow flakes close to my lens, creating large, distracting blobs. During the four-second exposure presented here, the flash fired at the beginning of shot, freezing the motion of the falling snow, while the ambient light slowly built up over the long exposure. The large aperture caused the flakes to register as diffuse circles of varying size. The result wonderfully conveys the charm and serenity of this pristine snowfall.

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 recently released a new e-book, Finding November, about his quest to seek out the 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 the newly announced Bandon Beach, Oregon trip, at For more on Mark’s work, visit

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