Frostbite 45 – A Northern Ski and Snowshow Event

Selected photos of frosted and frostbitten faces on participants can be seen on my Flickr page

The Frostbite 45 is a ski or snowshoe event held in Yellowknife. The course is 45 kilometers over windblown lakes and narrow skidoo trails between lakes. Participants can compete the entire course, or parts of the course as part of a relay team. This year, the 5th annual Frostbite-45 the weather conditions did not disappoint, with wind chill of -44C.
For the past couple of years I have volunteered at a Check Point; checking participant bib numbers and recording arrival times to help keep track of who is still on the particular section of the course, and when possible also photographing the other volunteers, skiers, runners (snow shoe participants can of often do remove their snow shoes on the hard packed trails). This year, I wanted to see the whole course, not only to get an idea what the participants see, and also to photograph the participants at different parts of the course. To do this – I used a skidoo, and it still took me six hours to compete the course.

The event, it is not called a ‘race’ started at 10am and the Yellowknife Ski Club with a 500 meter loop through the stadium area in front of the chalet (to spread out the group, and for the benefit of the spectators) then down the icy ravine onto Great Slave Lake. On the lake, it is approximately seven kilometers of directly in-you-face -40C something wind chill. I stopped a few times along this section to photograph the long stream of participants with the office towers of Yellowknife on the horizon. Already, at this point in the course, folks were getting cold. Even from a distance, I could recognize the circular motions of arms – trying to warm cold fingers, and hands on faces blocking the wind. There was even a fellow, with his hand in front of that part of the male anatomy. Time to move on.

Following a five kilometer skidoo trail through the forest must have given them some respite from the wind, until Walsh Lake – a long narrow lake perfectly aligned with the wind direction. The first Check Point, at the 15km distance is the one I know well. Shawne and Rauri were hard at work checking bib numbers and faces. By this point, most participants had covered up their faces with ski goggles, scarfs, neoprene face masks and neck warmers. Most were ok, although the strong wind has a nasty way of finding even the small areas of exposed skin such as the tip of the nose that normally pokes out at the bottom of ski goggles. Some were not as lucky, having small patches of white skin on reddened check. Others even less lucky with long stripes of frostbitten skin caused by wrinkles in their face masks, and one fellow who as first was thought to have a pale completion and this turned out to be a face of nasty frostbite. Needless to say, his race was over as the First Aid folks did not let him continue. As participants came through the Check Point I photographed some of them, forever recording those enthusiastic yet frost bitten faces.

The cold was also having an effect on my camera gear, and every few photos the viewfinder would stay black (the mirror had locked in the up position), and the LCD display read ‘err’. I now know what error message means, it is the cameras way of saying it is too darn cold and that the cameras normal operating temperatures range is no lower than 0C. A good time to leave the camera in my coat and let it warm up. By then, it was nearly 12:15, and in the distance back along the course we could see some participants had not yet completed the first section. For safety reasons, the Check Point is scheduled to close at 12:30, and those that had not yet past through the Check Point by that time would not be allowed to continue. It seemed like a good time to move on, as I did not want to be around or photograph the stragglers coming through after 12:30.

The course continues directly upwind to the end of Walsh Lake, then up over a hill and down to Prosperous Lake. From there I could see a long line of skiers and runners enduring a crosswind reroute to Check Point 2. Most of these folks I had already photographed at Check Point 1. Since my plan for the day was to photograph different participants at different parts of the course, I took a short cut and headed down wind towards Check Point 3 at the south end of the lake. On the way, I could see skiers and runners as tiny specks in the distance. Not far from Check Point 3, I noticed some incredibly scenic cliffs perfect to photograph the participants as they past in front. Not wanting to wait in the wind for the next skiers or runners to arrive, I sought shelter and found the perfect spot. There, out of the wind and actually being warmed by the sun were two volunteers from the Yellowknife Skidoo Club. We chatted and every 10 minutes or so I pushed down the visor of the skidoo helmet and peeked up wind to look for and photograph the next skier or runner as they passed by. Without the visor, the wind wanted to instantly freeze my eyes. Fortunately I had brought two cameras. The first was now completely dead. Even with extra batteries (I had bought 5 extra batteries) the LCD screen was blank. By 1:30 the second camera was starting to lock up and show the now all to familiar ‘err’ message on the LCD screen. A few photos later and it also went completely dead. Both cameras were now inside my coat – stone cold, and useless.

My job was to photograph the event, and by this point for most participants were still on the trails and had several hours to go before they completed the course. Without a camera, my contribution to the event was over. Being asked to retire from the event due to frostbite is one thing, as a photographer being forced to retire due to frozen cameras is another. By the time I got home at 4pm, not only were the two cameras still frozen, frost on the inside of my skidoo helmet had frozen my beard. A few tugs, and off came the helmet along with a tuft of beard hairs (just the grey ones right). My neck warmer had also frozen to my beard, tugging on it would have yanked out most of my beard hairs – outch. By 6pm I have thawed, the cameras have thawed (and are now working again), photos have been viewed, and I can’t help think about the folks that are still out there, the participants and volunteers.

Frozen cameras aside, it was again a rewarding experience to be a volunteer at Frostbite 45. This is however my last. Many participants in the Frostbite 45 have taken the time to stop, and say ‘thanks for helping’, then continue the course. Thanks folks. I would also like to thank the crew that organizes and sets up the event year after year; Shawne, Damain, Michael, Elaine (‘Master Tracker’, Tom, the volunteers at the Check Points, and the many clubs (Yk Skidoo Club, Amateur Radio Society), and all companies that provide products, services and people to make the Frostbite 45 a safe and successful event.


Selected photos of frosted and frostbitten faces on participants can be seen on my Flickr page


19th Annual Snowking Winter Festival (2014)

There is only one Snowking, see here wearing his trademark yellow jacket. As usual, Snowking was willing to pose for the camera, and simply walked into to the picture. Five pictures were combined to make this mosaic.

A view of the inside of the Snowking’s Castle, during the 19th annual Snowking Winter Festival. Click on the image for a larger view.
SCH_4251 Panorama-2-2


To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


The Royal Courtyard. Click on the image for a larger view.SCH_4463 Panorama-2

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


SCH_4478 Panorama-2
The view from the top of the Castle, and the “Deadman’s slide”. Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


SCH_4528 Panorama-2
The Ballroom, or call it what you want. This is where the bands play!!. Click on the image for a larger view.


To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


To view photos and 360 degree animations of the 2013 Snowking Winter Festival – Click Here.

For more info on the Snowking Winter Festival, Click Here

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Five pictures were combined to create the panorama image on this page.

‘Aurora in B&W’

‘Aurora in B&W’. Ok- I know what you are thinking…’Surely there is a law against posting Aurora photos in black and white’, and do spare me the threats of a lawsuit.

Use your imagination. A crisp clear winter evening, the aurora are dancing all across the sky. As you stare at the aurora, they speed up and slow down, they fade and grow into bright vibrant colors of green, magenta and thin streaks of white on the lower edges of the aurora. You see shapes of fire, faces and figures that at times seem to be waving. Your world is above you. There are no thoughts of yesterday or plans for tomorrow, your mind is in the present.

Even a photo in color cannot give you a feeling of being there. You need to experience the aurora with your own eyes, and see the colors in your own mind.


Metabones Speedbooster – Leica-R Lenses on Nikon and Fuji-X Cameras

Testing out Leica R 19mm f/2.8 (version 1) and Leica R 35mm f/2.8 lenses on a Nikon D700 and Fuji-X cameras (X-E1 and X-PRO1)

On the Fuji-X cameras, I also compared the Leica R Elmarit (19mm and 35mm) with a regular adapter (a simple tube with the appropriate lens mounts), and with a Metabones Speedbooster. The Metabones Speedbooster is a unique adapter that uses the full image circle of a full frame lens on a cropped sensor (APS-C) as used on the Fuji-X series. I won’t get into the specifics about the Speedbooster since there are tons of website and blogs describing how it works.

Note: There is no Metabones Speedbooster Leica R to Fuji-X adapter. The Leica R lenses were modified with a Leitax (Leica-R to Nikon) adapter. See for more info on the Leitax adapter. Although Leitax does make Leica-R to Fuji-X, I used the Leitax (Leica R to Nikon G) adapter to allow the Leica R lenses to be used on my Nikon D700.

These images illustrate the different ‘looks’ with different cameras, and the different field of view between the different adapters.

Since the settings on my X-PRO1 and X-E1 differ, I have included sample photos from both. None of the images have been edited, other than default setting in Lightroom.

Compare Leica R 19mm f/2.8 (Manual Focus)

From left to right Leica 19mm on Nikon D700, Fuji X-PRO1, and Fuji X-E1. Both X-PRO1 and X-E1 had the regular adapter. See info below. Click on the image to Enlarge.


Leica-R 19mm on X-PRO1 with regular adapter (left), and Metabones Speedbooster (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.


Leica-R 19mm on X-E1 with Metabones Speedbooster (left) and regular adapter (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

Compare Leica R 35mm f/2.8 (Manual Focus)

From left to right Leica 35mm on Nikon D700, Fuji X-PRO1, and Fuji X-E1. Click on the image to Enlarge.

Leica-R 35mm on X-E1 with Metabones Speedbooster (left) and XPRO1 with Metabones Speedbooster (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.

Leica-R 35mm on X-PRO1 with regular adapter (left) and X-E1 with regular adapter (right). Click on the image to Enlarge.


Compare Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 on X-PRO1 and X-E1 (Auto Focus)

Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 on X-PRO1 (left) and on X-E1 (right). Click to Enlarge.

Compared to using the Leica R lenses on a Fuji-X camera, the Fuji-X 35mm f/1.4 definitely has the auto focus advantage. Will I keep using manual focus Leica R lenses on the X-PRO1, and X-E1 ?. Even with the zoom function on the ‘M’ setting, it is still a challenge to focus and I certainly don’t recommend using a manual focus lens on a Fuji-X camera if the subject is moving.  Using Leica R lenses on the Nikon D700 is much easier thanks to the super large view finder and also has focus confirmation making manual focus relatively easy.

Reviewing the photos taken with the regular adapter and the Metabones Speedbooster, the images appear sharper and have more contrast with the Speedbooster. The Metabones Speedbooster isn’t cheap, then again, neither are Leica R lenses, so you get what you pay for.  According to the previous owner, the Speedbooster that I purchased was defective since it did not focus at infinity, and it would have cost too much $ to send the Speedbooster back to have it adjusted.  There is a real easy fix to the infinity problem with Metabones Speedboosters.

1) Loosen the small screw on the rear of the adapter.  2) Take note where the lens element is in its rotation. 3) Turn the lens element to move it closer or further from the film plane. 4) Tighten the screw. 5) Check infinity focus. 6) Repeat until happy.

17628b17b36fb81e3280b585f61828Photo and instructions from

fredfred27 November 2013 (

See also the instructions on the Metabones webpage (

Although not shown here, I’ve also been testing the Metabones Speedbooster with my other Leitax adapted Leica-R lenses, including the 19mm f/2.8 Elmarit Version 1, 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit (version ?), Leica 80-20mm f/4 ROM, 90mm f/2.0 Summicron, and 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit.   All work fine, and are easy to focus. The 35mm Elmarit did have a problem with infinity focus that was not related to the screw adjustment in the Speedbooster, instead, a small metal flange in the lens was hitting the glass on the Speedbooster. Having taken the back end off the Leica-R lenses swap out the original Leica-R lens mount and attaching a Leitax Nikon lens mount it was an easy task to once again open up the back of the Leica-35mm lens and wrap up the lens with tape and tissue, then carefully file down the small piece of metal flange. The while process only took a few minutes.

Will I keep the Metabones Speedbooster ?, right now I am undecided.




Pilot’s Monument, Yellowknife

Pilot’s Monument is the best place to go for a scenic view of Yellowknife Bay, Old Town, with its unique character and Downtown Yellowknife (actually up the hill from Old Town). After climbing the stairs to the top of the hill, the view is spectacular. At the top there is a brass plaque as a tribute to northern pilots.

In this image, downtown Yellowknife is directly under the sun on the right side of the image. Pilot’s Monument is in the middle of the photo, and Back Bay is on the far left.

Click on the image for a larger view.

To view the 360 degree animation. Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Six pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Documenting Land Cover and Vegetation Productivity Changes in the Yellowknife Area using the Landsat Satellite Archive

It is mid July, and you are motor boating through a myriad of islands on the way to your cabin. All is well until the prop hits a rock. You had been through this channel a million times before, and had never hit a rock. What’s Up ?. A few minutes later, as the boat rounds the last island before the cabin, you realise that the trees and shrubs look different. The cleared area in front of the cabin is now covered with shrubs, the shoreline is much farther back than it used to be, and the cabin is starting to sink into the ground !.  We all know that water levels change during the year, and that shrubs grow in cleared areas. Some of these changes could be just a natural part of a cycle, but what if they aren’t?.

To help understand, the causes and effects of these landscape changes, and if the changes that we are seeing on the landscape are part of a natural cycle or longer-term trend, a team of Federal, Territorial and University scientists are working on a project in the Yellowknife area. Using satellite imagery collected during the past 30 years, and remote sensing techniques we were able to visualize past and on-going changes to the landscape. One of the techniques, called Tasseled Cap Transformation, uses mathematical formulas to calculate values for brightness, greenness and wetness from a satellite image. Brightness represents a measure of reflectance from the surface; features such as bare soil, man-made, and natural features such as concrete, asphalt, gravel, rock outcrops, and other bare areas are considered bright. Greenness is a measure of vegetation; more vegetation is indicated by brighter green areas. Wetness is a measure of surface wetness including soil and plant moisture; wetter areas on the surface indicated by brighter colors on the satellite image. Satellite images spanning the 30 years of available data were analysed for landscape features that represent the Tasseled cap values for Brightness, Greenness, and Wetness.  Combining the Tasseled cap values from each separate satellite image, allows the long-term trends in the change of Tasseled cap values for Brightness, Greenness, and Wetness can be observed.  In Figure 1, the combined Tasseled cap values for Brightness are represented as shades of red, Greenness in shades of green, and Wetness in shades of blue, with brighter colors representing brighter, greener and wetter areas.

Figure 1



So, what do all the colors mean ?. Using field observations and photos taken from a helicopter, we are able to directly relate the trends (and colors) to observable and recognizable features on the landscape. A photo from the helicopter (Figure 2) over the circled on Figure 1, shows a small inlet with ring of brown vegetation (drying wetlands) and an inner ring of bright green vegetation (new vegetation growth). The combined Tasseled cap colors Brightness, Greenness, and Wetness for this area are yellow and green respectively, suggesting a trend during the past 30 years of yellow areas indicating drying up wetlands, and green areas where there is new vegetation growth.  Similarly, areas shown in pink (top left, Figure 1) are presumed to be non-vegetated shallow water areas including dried bogs (Figure 3). A photo of the old and new sections of Highway 3 (Figure 4), shows new vegetation growth on the old section, and paved, wide cleared area with no vegetation, corresponding to light blue and red areas on Figure 1. Areas shown in dark blue, are presumed to be the result of a change to a darker and a wetter forest.  The greenish color and banded pattern in the water is a by-product of processing of the imagery and can be ignored.


Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3










Figure 4

Figure 4















Based on this work, we observed the two major trends shown in the Tasseled Cap Transformation:

1)    Apparent lowering of water levels along the shoreline of Great Slave Lake, and in nearby lakes, and shoreline vegetation appears to have expanded in bays. What is not yet fully understood, is the cause of the apparent lowering; it is due to lowering water levels and/or isostatic uplift (land rising after the weight of the glaciers has been removed). Most likely it is a combination of both.

2)      Apparent increasing treed vegetation (Dark blue areas on Figure 1). A working hypothesis to explain this trend is that growing conditions have changed such that it is now better for conifer trees such as spruce and jack pine. Additional research work is in progress to understand the increasing treed vegetation.


What do these trends mean in the long-term ?. Are some of these changes just a natural part of a cycle ?. Or – is there any reason to believe that these are the early part of a longer and continuous trend leading to a major climate shift ?.

The data used in this study used satellite imagery that is only available going back 30 years, and does not give any indication of what climatic and landscape changes were occurring in the region 60, 100, 500 or 1000 years ago. Without the long term record, not realistically possible to make long term predictions of the landscape changes into the future. In the short term however, we can predict that water levels will continue to lower and, if growing conditions have recently become better suited to conifer growth, there may be a successional transition from broadleaf forest (beech trees) to conifer trees.

In this project, we have shown landscape change trends in the Yellowknife area. For you, these trends might make it more difficult to navigate to your cabin, and how and where you build your cabin. More importantly, some of the trends in landscape changes observed via the Tasseled Cap Transformation may represent changes which cannot be directly observed. A trend indicating a transition to more-dominate to conifer may also affect the frequency and abundance of forest fires, and may also reflect a change (degradation) in underlying permafrost patterns. The impact of degrading permafrost may have a large impact on a wide range of infrastructure. Anyone who has driven Highway 3 (Yellowknife -  Behchoko) will certainly remember a few bumps in the road, the vast majority of which were caused by changes in the permafrost under the highway.

There probably isn’t too much that can be done locally to prevent many of the changes.  It is however, important to continue research to understand the underlying causes for the changes. Continued monitoring the changes, will provide useful information to decision makers, for example by showing which areas and terrain features are more sensitive and susceptible to change.


This work is conducted as part of and Natural Resources Canada’s project on Transportation Risk and Climate Sensitivity (TRACS).

Reference: Seventh International Conference and Workshop on the Analysis of Multi-temporal Remote Sensing Images (MultiTemp 2013), Banff, Alberta, Canada, June 25-27, 2013.

Fraser, R.H1, Olthof, I.1, Deschamps, A.1, Pregitzer, M.1, Kokelj, S.2, Lantz, T.3, Wolfe, S.4, Brooker, A.5, Lacelle, D.5, and Schwarz, S.6


(1) Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON

(2) Renewable Resources and Environment, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Yellowknife, NWT

(3) School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC

(4) Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, ON

(5) Department of Geography, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON

(6) NWT Centre for Geomatics, Govt of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, NWT




Yellowknife – INSAR

Another satellite in our tool box is the Canadian designed and built Radarsat. Compared to most other satellites, it does not take pretty pictures. Instead, the Radarsat satellite fires a radar beam to earth at a specific wavelength, and the beam bounces off the surface of the earth and returns back the satellite. Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (D-InSAR) is a technique that uses repeat synthetic aperture radar (SAR) observations, separated in time, of the same area on the Earth’s surface to detect small movements of the ground surface. Since the satellite is moving in an along a fixed orbit at constant height above earth surface, the distance between the satellite and a specific point on the earth’s surface is a constant. With a repeat observation, millimeter-scale changes in the distance between the satellite and the earth’s surface can be calculated by comparing the phase shift of the wavelength of the radar signal that was fired by the satellite. A 3D model (digital elevation model) is used to remove the phase difference resulting from topography and the remaining phase difference is converted to vertical displacement which represents the displacement of the ground surface. Although this is a simplistic explanation of the process, a more detailed discussion of these processing steps may be found in Short et al. (2011).


Using SAR data collected during the summer of 2010, scientists at the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, the Geological Survey of Canada, along with their northern partners, used differential interferometry techniques to map ground surface displacement in the Yellowknife area. Figure XY shows the ground displacement derived using stacked RADARSAT-2 D-InSAR from May 23 to September 20, 2012. The results are categorized in terms of the relative amount of displacement rather than focussing on the absolute values (units are in meters). Areas shown in red and yellow, are undergoing low and moderate downward displacement (subsidence) in the range of -1 to -3 cm and -3 to -6 cm per season, respectively. Ground that is considered stable, where no vertical change was calculated is shaded in blue.  Areas where the displacement is upward, due to ground surface heave or vegetation growth of up to 6 cm, are shown in pink.  At some locations, labeled ‘Incoherent’ the vertical change is presumed to be significant and is beyond the measuring capabilities of the D-InSAR process.


The ground surface displacements shown on the map are considered to be seasonal since they occurred during the May to September time period. Areas of downward displacement may result from seasonal subsidence caused by thawing of the active layer (seasonally-frozen ground) or permafrost (perennially-frozen ground) or soil compaction. Upward surface displacement may result from ground surface heave or, under certain circumstances, vegetation growth. The latter represents an apparent upward displacement that is not the product of ground surface displacement. Both downward and upward ground surface displacements may be from natural and human-induced processes.

Verification of the results of the InSAR displacement in areas identified as having moderate seasonal surface subsidence. We observed and measured indications of subsidence such as undulating roadways, areas that were presumed or measured to have been levelled when constructed, and noted and measured cracks and rotated sidewalks.



The purpose of this study is to present and interpret D-InSAR measurements of seasonal surface displacement over discontinuous permafrost terrain in Yellowknife. We conducted field verification to support the results observed by the InSAR process by documenting areas undergoing low and moderate downward displacement and noting the impacts on private property and municipal infrastructure. Mapping of surface displacement is important to assess ground and infrastructure stability, and to monitor mitigation in problem areas, and to plan future land use. Surface displacement may be from natural or human-induced processes that cause vertical movement of the ground. In Yellowknife, and other areas in northern Canada, surface displacement may be caused by freezing and thawing of the active layer (seasonally-frozen layer) or the permafrost (perennially-frozen ground). This presents challenges that increase the cost of constructing and maintaining infrastructure (e.g. roads and buildings), especially if the displacement continues in the same direction over an extended period of time. The knowledge of where the problem areas occur and the relative magnitude of displacement provides engineers and municipal planners with key information required to reduce the cost and risk of developing and maintaining northern infrastructure.


Wolfe, S., Short, N., Morse, P., Olthof, I., Schwarz, S., Stevens, C. (2013). Application of RADARSAT-2 D-InSAR season surface displacement to municipal land use in discontinuous permafrost terrain, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. fCorresponding author, . ** Note: this work is not yet published


Short, N., Brisco, B., Couture, N., Pollard, W., Murnaghan, K. and Budkewitsch, P. 2011. A comparison of TerraSAR-X, RADARSAT-2 and ALOS-PALSAR interferometry for monitoring permafrost environments, case study from Herschel Island, Canada. Remote Sensing of Environment, 115, 3491–3506, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2011.08.012.




Bullocks Bistro – Yellowknife’s Best Known Fish Restaurant

Bullocks Bistro, in Old Town Yellowknife serves up the best fish in town, and is often featured on CBC Arctic Air.  Can’t think of too many restaurants that actually let you, and encourage you to leave your mark on the ceilings and walls !.

SCH_3491 Panorama-2_TM-TB Click on the image to see it bigger.
To view a 360 degree animation of this scene, Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Four pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Snowking XVIII

Snowking Winter Festival XVIII: Children’s Theater – March 3rd 2013.


SCH_2823 Panorama-2


A view of the inside of the Snowking’s Castle, during the Children’s Theater (March 3rd, 2013).  Click on the image for a larger view.


To view a 360 degree animation of this scene, Click Here. This requires the QuickTime Player. Click the icon on the upper right corner of the animation to get a full view. Depending on network speed, the image may take a moment to load.


SCH_2827 Panorama-2

Stage left:


For more info on the Snowking Winter Festival, Click Here

Camera gear: Nikon D700 and a Peleng 8mm lens on a custom monopole. Four pictures were combined to create the panorama images on this page.

Adding Light using Flash

When the Light isn’t Right: Photography in low light or too much light.

Any keen photographer will tell you that the best light for photography is the ‘magic-hour’ at sunrise and at sunset, and that mid-day or low-light photography should be avoided. For the rest of us, there is a whole day in between and, like it or not, it is our only opportunity to get photos. We simply can’t put life on-hold to wait for the so-called magic-hour. So, how do you get good photos when the light isn’t Right ?.

At any given light, good light or bad light, camera exposure is based on three variables;

  1. Shutter speed (how long the shutter is open). Faster shutter speeds can freeze motion are used when there is good light, where as slower shutter speeds blur moving objects. You might have already noticed that some of you low light photos are blurry. This is because a slow shutter speed is required in low light conditions to allow enough light into the camera for proper exposure. Unless you have a tripod, the shutter speed should be 1/ the focal length of the lens, e.g. a 250mm lens would require a minimum shutter speed of 1/250sec.
  2. Aperture (how much light comes in the lens). In good light conditions, the lens can be intentionally stopped-down (higher aperture number) to reduce the amount of light entering the camera, and increase the depth of field.
  3. ISO or film speed (how sensitive the sensor of film is to light).  Lower the ISO the better. Higher ISO (800, 1200 and higher) adjust the sensitivity of the camera sensor of film to be more sensitive to light, so that photos can be taken is lower light conditions. Unfortunately, this means more more digital noise, and photos that look murky or muddy.

Adding light by using a flash changes everything. Most digital cameras have built-in flash, so you always have a flash when you need extra light. The down side of built-in flash is the quality of light; harsh and people will have red-eye.

If you can, buy a hand held flash unit and a cable to connect the flash to the camera or wireless trigger. This is called off-camera flash. Once you get into it – there is no going back.

Adding Flash

As mentioned above, adding flash (assuming off-camera flash), changes everything for camera exposure. Depending on your camera, flash units are synched to fire at 1/60, 1/125 or 1/250 of a second. If you set your shutter speed higher than your camera’s synch speed the image will be black, or partially black since the flash fired while the the shutter was already closing.

When using a flash, your can set the camera to Auto, or Program and let the camera work out the correct exposure, or set the camera to M for Manual so you can maximize the creative opportunity to over or under expose the background and make the foreground have more ‘Pop’.

In Manual mode

1) Set the shutter speed to the camera’s flash sync speed. You might have to refer to the camera manual to determine your cameras sync speed.

2) Point the camera at the background and set aperture according to the cameras light meter. Do not adjust the ISO – low number is better. The camera is now set to the correct exposure for the background. Some photographers call this “ambient exposure”.

3) Now turn on your flash. It can be set to automatic (TTL) where the flash power is controlled by the camera. This is useful for moving subjects. Setting the flash to Manual means that the flash power is controlled by you. This mode is most useful for portraits, or where you want to fine tune the exposure.

Assuming that you want control over the flash power, now it gets really fun and also a bit complicated.  One step at a time.

  • a) Flash in manual mode means you control the Flash Power. Typical flash power settings are 1/1 (full power), 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16.
  • b) Off camera flash means you control the Direction of the flash hitting the subject.
  • c) Off camera flash means you control the Flash-Subject Distance. Flash held closer to the subject means less flash power is needed, distant subjects will require more flash power for proper exposure.
  • d) Assuming that your camera is also in Manual mode, with shutter speed set to sync speed. The lens Aperture (controls how much light enters the camera), and also be used to control exposure.  If the subject is overexposed, then reduce the aperture (turn to higher aperture number) : e.g. change aperture f/5.6 to f/8. If the subject is underexposed, then increase aperture.

e)  Other ways to change effect of the flash

  • 1) How does the light from the flash hit the subject. Is the light harsh, creating dark shadows, or more soft with smooth transitions on the subject. Add a diffuser (e.g. softbox or umbrella) to reduce harsh shadows.
  • 2) Coverage: is the flash directed at the entire subject, or only on a portion of the subject. Coverage can be modified (reduced) by zooming the flash, moving the flash closer to the subject, or adding a diffuser.


Go ahead - take a photo. See how it looks and make adjustments.