Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snow Day

Last weekend I saw that there was snow expected at the local mountains (Big Bear, CA).  We decided to take the kids there.  I decided to bring the D600 with the Tamron 70-300 VC, the S5 with the Tokina 11-16, the Lumix LX5, and the Dolica carbon fiber tripod (in very cold weather, carbon fiber is easier to handle than aluminum).  Here are some shots from our trip.

The drive to the mountains was relatively smooth.  At one point we hit dense fog but it wasn't too bad.  When we got to the mountains I started seeing signs saying that tire chains were required.  The local resorts' websites said that no tire chains were required so we had not brought any.  We decided to go ahead anyway.

We were going at a good pace when suddenly we hit really bad traffic.  The cars were moving at about a walking pace.  I thought it could either be an accident, or there was a checkpoint up ahead to enforce the tire chain requirement.  Most of the other cars didn't have tire chains so we took our chances and kept going.

I took a shot of this cabin while our car was stuck in traffic.
After we kept crawling for almost an hour, we saw that cars were starting to pull over and put on their tire chains.  Uh oh.  Finally we got to a point where pretty much everyone was pulling over for tire chains.  Argh.  We figured tire chains were really required and we decided that rather than go home, we headed back down the mountain to get tire chains.  On the way down we could see that the backup was getting longer... We just sighed and kept going.

We stopped at a store at the base of the mountain to pick up tire chains - one of the last 3 for our tire size.  Whew.  Then we headed back up.  Soon enough we got stuck in traffic again.  When traffic got really slow I put on the tire chains.  It had been a long while since I last put them on, so it took me several attempts to get them attached.

After we got them on, we slogged through the traffic for another hour.  Ironically, it turned out that tire chains were not required after all.  Or at least no one was checking.  Doh!  Anyway, we finally got to the ski resort (Snow Valley).  Just as we arrived, snow started to fall.  It was just the tiniest bit of snow - it looked almost like a very light drizzle.  But as they dropped on the cars, it was unmistakably snow.  It was the first time for my wife and kids to see real snow falling.

We first grabbed some lunch.  The resort was pretty busy and the lines at the restaurant were chaotic.  There were separate lines depending on whether you wanted soup, burgers, or pizza.  Very inconvenient if you wanted different types of food.  I just went with the pizza, which was the shortest line.

After scarfing down our lunch we got lift tickets for sledding then headed up the slopes.  My wife and son were a little scared at first but managed to smile a bit for the camera.  Meanwhile I struggled to keep our squirming daughter from sliding off the seat as I tried to take shots.

As soon as we got off the lift, Marcus and Sophia excitedly played with the freshly fallen snow.

As you can see we were not dressed properly at all. I didn't have gloves and our kids' mittens were not waterproof.  It also got colder and even more snow fell.  It was the coldest I've ever felt at the local mountains (which usually don't get THAT cold).  By the time we got down the slope, my hands felt like they were on fire from frostbite.  We went straight for the sports shop to buy gloves without a thought to being price-gouged.  Yes, apparently temperature affects elasticity of demand.

It was just as well because as soon as we got out of the shop, it got even colder and the snowfall got much heavier.

Got up the lift again, a little warmer this time...

I tried to get a family picture but it was very difficult to get the kids' attention.

Of course we could not resist making snow angels.
frame grab from a video I took

After getting enough shots with the snowy background, I got some close up shots.

On the lift with Sophia
As it got later, it got even colder, and most people were starting to leave.  Our kids didn't want to go home yet but we were concerned they would get sick.  But before we went home, we made our first snow man.  Much harder than it looks, at least for newbies like us.

It was very hard to get our daughter to go home.  She just ignored us as we kept calling to her.  And she's not a teenager yet. :)

Thankfully before we went home we were able to get a family picture.  I found a nice background, set the camera to the focal length I wanted then a friendly woman offered to take our shot.

It's one of my favorite portraits of our family and is a beautiful memento of the delightful day we had at the ski resort.

P.S.  BTW if you're wondering about the equipment, I only used the LX5 for all of these shots.  I never used the D600 because the snowfall got quite heavy and I didn't plan on weather-testing the D600.  Although the S5's highlight range would have been perfect for the snow, I didn't want to risk damaging it either.  Meanwhile, the LX5 performed like a champ and worked flawlessly despite the freezing temperatures and the snow that covered parts of the camera.  (It was a bit hard to operate with gloves but that is only to be expected for a small point and shoot.)  The exposure in Program mode was pretty much spot on and the camera wasn't fooled by the snow.  In post, the shots needed very little editing.  These are close to SOOC.


  1. Nice group shot Mic!

    I was actually wondering a bit about the image quality until you mentioned you only used the LX5. I picked up a Canon S100 for those times where a "big" camera body (D90 for me) and lens can be a bit impractical where you have to babysit your gear instead of being more involved in the actual outing especially when you want to be mobile with kids. Sometimes a smaller camera is better.

    Looks like you guys had fun!

    1. Thanks Francis. Yes I think you said it very well - with my bigger cameras I would be really worried about damaging them and would not have been able to play with my family. And yes we had a blast!

      Best regards,

  2. Thanks for sharing your family outing. It is fun playing in the snow -- especially when you don't have to deal with it all winter!

    You've captured some great photos of your family -- and didn't need a 24mp FF camera to do so!

    1. Thanks Ken! Yes we are thankful that we dont have to deal with snow when we dont want to. Though we have earthquakes. :p

      Yes i think the lx5 was just right. I didnt need shallow dof, it was bright enough that the camera was using very low ISOs, and the dynamic range was within the sensor's range -- no clipped highlights or blocked shadows.

      Best regards,


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