Snowed Out: Irrefutable Proof That Bad Weather Offers Great Opportunities for Photographers


© Peter Baumgarten

Heading home on New Year’s Day after dropping off a family friend at the bus station, Peter Baumgarten runs into a blinding snowstorm. “Whiteout conditions,” he says, “almost impossible to see 10 feet in front of me, trying to make out car tracks to follow, but they’re completely covered.” After about 20 minutes of anxious struggle through blinding snow, he’s had enough, and he pulls over near a little park in the small town he and his wife, Christianna, are trying to drive through. With a sigh of relief, he lets the stress dissipate.

“Then I open my eyes and see a park bench,” he says.

But in his mind’s eye he’s seeing a lot more. He’s seeing this photograph, because he is, after all, a photographer. Not a professional, but enthusiastic, dedicated, and accomplished enough to be designated a Trailblazer by the Olympus camera company. And what a Trailblazer does is…well, you know.

So he turns to his wife and says, “Do you want to be the model?”

“Sure,” she replies, and with that he grabs his camera, puts on a telephoto lens, and they’re out of the car and into the storm.

“I tell her exactly where to sit: not in the center of the bench, but just to the left of the right support. I say, ‘Sit down carefully because I don’t want you to knock the snow off the back. I want it to look like you’ve been sitting there for quite a while.’”

Baumgarten is not usually this regimented with his photos, but in this case he knows exactly what he wants. “Her bright jacket adds to the image,” he says, “and I love that the tree provides a bit of a frame, and the snow isolates everything—the bench is at a lake, but you can’t see any of it.”

He chooses a high shutter speed to make sure the snowflakes don’t turn to streaks. “You can actually pick out blobs of snowflakes falling along the vertical of the tree and the horizontal slats of the bench.”

Fortunately his camera is a weather-sealed model. “It was covered with snow when I finished shooting,” he says.

As if a non-weather-sealed camera would have stopped him.

Photographers. Everything’s an opportunity.

Tech Talk: Peter Baumgarten made the image with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and an M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f/2.8 lens. The settings were 1/2500 second, f/3.5, ISO 1250, aperture priority, and center-weighted metering.

Peter Baumgarten’s website,, offers a portfolio of his with- and without-snow images, photo tips, and information about workshops.