Let it Snow and Ice (Or Just Pretend it is)
It's the time in the Northeast (Where I am located) that snow and ice is probably not far off. Not many people with the exception of skiers and snowboarders look forward to the snow, but there is sort of a pristine beauty to fresh snow. Some photographers simply like the snow covered landscapes and yet others have created some great portrait shots in the snow. Obviously though there are some obstacles such as just the perfect timing just after a new snow, cold weather, and icy driving conditions just to name a few.
Landscape photographers brave these wild conditions, but what about portrait photographers? Can you get close? Well maybe with a little planning one can create a snow/ice scene inside without having to worry about a 10 car pileup on the interstate.
When looking for backdrops, there seems to be an abundance of options to order from. One such Snow backdrop can be found here on Amazon or some other sites. Try to avoid the thin vinyl backdrops since they typically can be difficult to remove folds and creases. Some printed backdrops are sensitive to water, so be careful about ironing the them on a heavy steam setting. Sometimes it can help to hang a backdrop for several days with a small weight near the bottom to lessen the appearance of folds. Also avoid front lighting unless using a very large (6 ft) soft light source since glare can be a problem. Careful side lighting backdrops often yields good results.
So what about ice? Well, you certainly have several options here. One choice to have an object seemingly covered or wrapped in ice is to use Encapso K. This is a clear silicone rubber that looks very much like water and ice. It is durable and long lasting, but is somewhat expensive as you purchase larger quantities.
This video (audio is not great) Home made blocks of ice does get the point across in a relatively easy method. Of course, like all real ice, it does have a relatively short shelf life and does get a little messy but certainly is one of the most realistic ways to portray an ice scene. Another realistic method, although not home made, to get realistic ice is to purchase dry ice. Believe it or not, some Walmart's actually sell dry ice. Depending on the environment, you may have 18-24 hours before the block of ice evaporates. Dry ice is typically not very expensive per pound but care must be taken not to touch the block of ice since it may burn the skin.
Blankets of snow can be created in several ways. One method is to go to your local fabric store and pick out a textured roll of snowy fabric. This of course could cover quite a large area, but is rather flat and snow often occurs in mounds here and there. Instant snow such as Ainolway or a similar product can produce as much as 10 gallons of snow for a reasonable price. Placing the instant snow on top of a snow blanket can give a realistic appearance.
Spray snow In a can can produce a textured look to props and other portions of a scene that may not necessarily be laying on the ground. If you want the sparkly Icy snow , products often are finely cut portions of plastic that can give that extra sparkle to your set. Add a few Styrofoam snow balls and you may be on your way to creating a perfect snow scene.
As a quick reminder for those who really want the real thing, be sure to use your exposure compensation dial when outside since most cameras will try to turn the snow grey. A (+1) or (+2) may actually help get a true white snow. If you are coming from a warm room, you may need to give the camera a few minutes in the outside to avoid lens fogging. If you are in REALLY cold weather remember that batteries will deplete much faster than normal, so be sure to keep an extra with you!