December brought extremely cold temperatures, freezing fog and a blanket of frost to the area surrounding Lake Tahoe. Knowing that these extreme conditions can create a special mood for the right composition, I spent three mornings searching within the pogonip for interesting “western” scenes. I had driven past this traditional red barn hundreds of times, but this is the first image I have composed of the structure.
The frosted trees, pogonip and diffused morning light add an air of history to the scene. I especially liked the way the mountain backdrop disappeared into the mist allowing my imagination to wander. The detail of the tree’s soft shadow on the barn is subtle, but intriguing. I much preferred this “softer” feeling image to the bright contrasty, literal scene I observed the previous morning. An iconic western scene became something special when paired with unique and dramatic natural conditions. Using the panoramic format enabled me to eliminate the clearing sky and retain the intimate feel I desired.
Tips: Given the extreme temperatures (about 5 degrees F) I kept my camera pack in the back of my truck as I explored, eliminating issues like fogging that can occur by taking the camera directly out of a heated vehicle. My camera backpack is padded, so the equipment cools slowly as I explore. In these frigid conditions, I always hold my breath when near the lens. Warm moist air that is breathed out will coat the lens and immediately freeze and will take precious time to thaw. Wiping a frost covered lens can create scratches and damage a modern lenses coating. To protect myself, I was using a new pair of fleece gloves that had pile on the inside, but a smooth weave on the outside. They were thin enough to handle the controls on my bellows camera, but still kept my fingers from becoming frost bitten. Finally, watch your exposure in foggy conditions. This type of scene often requires an exposure compensation of +1/2 to +1 full stop. I usually cross reference my spot metering with an ambient reading. If shooting digital, watch the left side of your histogram.