Behind the Lens: Winter Delicacy

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Photograph by Mark Bowie


Winter Delicacy

Exposure Data:
1/400 Second, F/5.6, ISO 800
Nikon D610 Camera, Nikkor 80-400mm lens at 400mm

We’re entering a season known for its extremes of snow and ice, but it’s also one of delicate beauty, when a two-inch snowfall can transform November’s bare trees and gray hillsides into December’s winter wonderland.

In Keene Valley, with my camera and a 400mm lens mounted on a tripod, I homed in on a weathered tree standing apart from its neighbors. The long lens would give me the reach I needed, but I knew it would also compress the perspective. Wanting to visually separate the trees, I shot at the lens’ widest aperture—f/5.6.   But the most important artistic choice, I figured, was how to render the falling snow. Deciding to freeze its motion, I boosted the ISO to 800 to attain a sufficient shutter speed—1/400th second. The daintily falling snow became suspended in mid-air. If I had chosen a long exposure, the falling snow would have blurred or not even registered, and the scene’s magical feel would have disappeared with it. Technically, getting the star tree in critical focus was… critical. I turned on the camera’s LiveView, magnified the view and manually focused on the tree. Sure enough, it is tack sharp and we can see the snow coating its limbs. The background woods have gone pleasantly soft, enough so that they don’t compete with the starring tree.

For such an intimate scene, there are a number of subtle complexities that enhance its feel. I was initially drawn by the branches’ graceful fluidity. There’s a luminosity to them as well, a glowing quality that projects them forward. And there’s a diagonal interplay between the starring tree and those beyond it, like they were cast from the same mold. Note how the forward tree is bright, but its mirroring counterpart beyond is darker. The overall color palette is wintry, yet the blue-gray limbs are worn to beige and brown; tattered blue-green lichen clings to them. In processing, I kept the white balance cool to fit the season, and added a slight vignette to center the attention on the main tree. And note the scene’s alternating brighter and darker areas, which conveys relief. All these attributes coalesced in a moment of exquisite, delicate beauty. In faith, more will come.

Season’s greetings everyone, and happy holidays!

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations in-person and via Zoom for conferences, camera clubs and other groups.  He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. API’s 2021 workshop schedule is on their website. It includes Mark’s popular winter workshop and two night photography summer workshops. For the program descriptions and to register, see Please visit Mark’s website,, to view image galleries and keep abreast of his workshops, presentations and product releases.

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