11 September 2019

And you thought the snow season was for skiing! Taking photos is much more fun!

| Elise Searson
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Gauthega Dam June 2019. Photo: Justine Searson

After what felt like the hottest and longest summer on the Eurobodalla coast we’ve finally arrived at what I think is the most photogenic season of the year – winter!

You don’t need expensive gear either to get the money shot – just a good eye for composition as in the rule of thirds (which as a photojournalist I break all the time!) and an understanding of the aperture – eye of the camera.

Our pupils change with the light from full dilation in the dark to tiny black spots in the brightest of light. If your camera is on auto or you’re using a phone the aperture will work like our eyes, if it’s in manual mode you can control how much light you want to come in and what you want to focus on. You know those nice shots where everything is soft and blurry in the foreground or background? That’s the aperture.

Eagle Nest, Thredbo June 2019. Photo: Justine Searson

After going to Iceland in January (underdressed!) and photographing chunks of ice on a beach with numb hands and feet I learnt to never leave the house without waterproof boots, thermal socks and fingerless mittens.

Diamond Beach, Iceland 2016. Photo: Elise Searson

Some cameras can handle the cold better than others so do a quick Google search on your model first. I’ve had lenses stop working at -5. And try going out with just the one lens to avoid condensation in the camera body with changes.

Gauthega June 2019. Photo: Justine Searson

Setting your exposure to the snow will prevent blowouts (overexposure) and when it comes to landscapes be fussy about straight lines and what you put in the frame. We’re lucky in the digital age, we can shoot and critique ourselves in five seconds!

With all this said, keep in mind the words of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who says it takes 10,000 bad photos before you start taking good ones.

I started when I was 14, in the darkroom at Batemans Bay High School on an old Pentax analogue with black and white film. I was lucky to have a teacher who nurtured my passion.

A great image comes when my heart, mind and trigger finger all line-up. It doesn’t have to be on the latest camera or on the perfect settings – the goal is to evoke thought or emotion in the viewer – a greater challenge than any of the technical stuff.

Thredbo, March 2019. Photo: Elise Searson

My best images happen when I feel connected to what’s in front of me, sometimes this is in people eyes and others their spirit. When it comes to winter though my internal compass always takes me to the mountains.

Shooters Hill, May 2019. Photo: Elise Searson

The most magical photo opportunities happen in the least expected moments like when I took the backroad home to Batemans Bay from Katoomba a couple of weeks leading me into a winter wonderland.

It added two hours on the trip because I kept stopping. All I had was my phone and my favourite editing app, VSCO.

And remember, a lot of new phones are waterproof to some degree so a little snow won’t hurt.

Shooters Hill, May 2019. Photo: Elise Searson

It’s been an exciting start to this season with snow falling as low as 600 metres in New South Wales and surprisingly in Queensland’s Granite Belt. A little closer to home and Just 2.5 hours from Batemans Bay you’ll find Corin Forest – a more affordable alternative to the high country where there’s snow all winter and you can get there in any car.

Next time you hear the snow is falling close to home drop everything except your camera and follow it!

When you get ‘that shot’ you’ll be addicted – just like me. It’s like scoring a goal or catching a fish, once you make a photo you and everyone else loves there’ll be no stopping you.

To contact Justine Searson, click here. To contact me, click here.

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