Take a different approach to those white winter wonderland scenes as photographer Jo Stephen shows us her take on the subject
Jo Stephen has a distinctive abstract approach when it comes to documenting wildlife and the natural environment. Jo has worked in wildlife conservation and education, and even as a glass blower. She is currently studying for an MSc degree, exploring how art and photography can engender nature connection and healing for both person and planet.
Jo took this eye-catching image at Winterborne Clenston, in the Winterborne Valley in North Dorset, where she lives. “Almost all of my photography is taken within a very small local area,” she says, “as I try to minimise my impact on the environment. But I also enjoy watching the seasons change in familiar and intimate landscapes.”
If you want to see more of Jo’s work she will be featuring in the upcoming exhibition Plants and Pollinators, running from 1-31 May 2019 at the Dorset Wildlife Trust Kingcombe Centre, Dorset (www.kingcombe.org).
1 Intentional camera movement
Jo created this image using intentional camera movement or ICM. This is when you move the camera in a upwards, sideways or diagonal direction as the shutter is being released, creating a blurred and abstract result. If you’re shooting trees, an up-and-down panning motion emphasises their height.
2 Multiple exposure
Alongside ICM, Jo shot multiple exposures. “I took several layers of images just of the snow falling, and layered the images in Photoshop, as my camera doesn’t have a multiple exposure function,” she says.
3 Overexpose snow
Shooting snow can be tricky, as it will confuse your camera’s metering system. Basically the meter in your camera measures the light reflected from a surface and sets the exposure to make it 18% grey. This means it tries to dull down the snow, thinking it’s going to overexpose. To get round this problem, push the exposure setting up. Jo set her camera to a +1.7 stop exposure increase; her camera settings were 1/10 sec at f/22, ISO 100.
4 Give context
Rather than going completely abstract and losing any context to the environment, Jo has left clues in the image so we can identify the subject. “I wanted the trees to appear ethereal and impressionistic, which moving the camera helped to create, but as I also wanted the snow to be pronounced to convey the feeling of being in the snowstorm.” It really does feel like we’re looking through a blizzard into this magical winter wonderland.
5 Top tips
If you would like to try these techniques for yourself, Jo suggests experimenting with long hand-held exposures (1/31/10 sec) to discover the effects that different movements create. This can be achieved with any lens. Then you can think about how you would like to build up textures, pattern and form to create your image, mixing static and ICM shots and layering your shots in your image-editing software.
1/10 sec ISO 100 f/22