Dogsledding Jasper

Photography and Dog Sledding in Jasper

I was so excited for the opportunity to head out dogsledding from Jasper National Park this week.  Of course, it wasn’t easy.  The weather in Jasper this week was nuts.  We had a massive snow storm – which you saw in my video skiing at Marmot Basin – and the snow was followed by temperatures between minus 20 and minus 37.  In fact, the dogsledding nearly got cancelled on us because it was too cold.  

So, I want to give a massive thanks to the people at Cold Fire Creek Dog Sledding for making this happen despite the weather issues.  A big thanks is also due to our driver at SunDog Tours for getting us out there on those brutal ice roads.  As a former tour bus driver/guide (my university job), I know how stressful that can be.

Anyways, check out the video below to see what we got up to.  Under the video, there’s plenty of info and lots of tips about taking winter photos.  In the video and this article, I guide you through the editing process of winter photography as well using photoshop elements 13.  Of course, there are plenty of images from the dogsledding in Jasper as well.


How to Dogsled in Jasper National Park?

It should be noted that dogsledding is actually not allowed within the boundaries of Jasper National Park.  However, if you’re in Jasper, you can organize dogsledding tours via a local adventure company called SunDog.  From town, they take you an hours drive to just outside the town of Valemount, BC where you meet the dogs and the crew at Cold Fire Creek Dog Sledding.  The trip we did was only an hour because of the extremely cold weather.  However, there are also opportunities to do trips as long as 4 hours which is what we were meant to do initially.

The sled dogs aren’t the typical huskies you might expect.  Instead, these are dogs specifically bred for the purposes of pulling sleighs.  They are fast, and they are energetic.  It’s a serious amount of fun.  If you go, you have the opportunity to push the sled yourself, if you’d like.  Or, you can sit in the comfort of one of the sleds themselves covered in blankets and let the guides do the pushing for you.  Tiffany and I shared a sled, and took turns pushing and riding shotgun.  It was a blast.

Dogsledding Jasper

Tips for Winter Photography

Winter photography is a whole different ballgame.  If you’re not used to shooting images in snowy conditions not only can it be a challenge, but it can be completely frustrating.  You deal with issues like exposure, colour balance, and, of course, with being very cold yourself.  These are some of my tips for getting your winter photography right:

1. Overexpose the Meter

Your camera’s meter reads on the assumption that everything is a certain percentage grey.  Thus, when a scene is very white, like a snow scene, your camera is going to think it’s brighter than it actually is.  On the other side of things, if your scene is completely black, it’s going to expose more than it needs to.  To compensate, in the situation of a snowy scene, you need to overexpose your camera’s reading by between 1 and 2 stops.  For me, the best way to do this is to do a test shot on a subject that’s colourful without a lot of snow and then shoot in manual mode using that exposure and making minor adjustments from there on out.  Some people shoot in Aperture priority mode and use the exposure compensation dial.  However, I think that will leave you with far too few keepers.  Don’t risk it, shoot it in manual mode.

Dogsledding Jasper

2. Watch your White Balance

In the show, chances are your white balance will come out blue-ish.  If you’re shooting in RAW, that’s not much of an issue because we can always just edit the temperature in photoshop elements or whatever program you’re using.  If you’re shooting in JPEG or on a smartphone, then you need to make sure your white balance is set right before you shoot a scene or it will come out funky and you wont have the ability to adjust that later on.

Dogsledding Jasper

3. Find Colourful Subjects

I think it’s so important to find subjects that are really colourful to contrast the snowy scenes of winter.  Pick out subjects that are bright blue, yellow, pink, etc.. If you don’t do this, your images will almost look black and white.  When dogsledding, one of the guide’s daughters was wearing a bright jacket and was a perfect subject.

Dogsledding Jasper

4. Watch your Battery Life

Batteries burn about twice as quickly in the cold weather.  I can normally shoot about 700 images on my 60D before it burns out.  In the snow, we shot only about 200 and it started blinking that it was dying.  On my 6D, it handled it a bit better, but still burned much quicker.  Be sure to pack extra batteries in the cold.

Editing Winter Photography using Photoshop Elements 13

I’m a big fan of Photoshop Elements when editing single images.  It maintains a lot of the creative control that you get using Photoshop CC, well being much lighter.  I also get a lot of requests for editing tutorials for PSE13.  So, I thought I’d run you through a couple of these images.  Of course, it’s probably easier to follow along with the video above, but if you’re more of a reader than a viewer, it’s here too.

Fixing the Exposure in Photoshop Elements 13

As mentioned in the tips, getting the right exposure can be a bit of a challenge in winter photography.  Luckily, this is likely the easiest thing to fix in the program.  Just head into the guided edit section and choose “exposure and contrast”.  You’ll then be able to manipulate each as you need.  Personally, I don’t add a lot of contrast to winter photos as it tends to exacerbate the exposure issue between the white snow and the dark areas of the image.


Fixing the White Balance in Photoshop Elements 13

I think this is something that should be added to the next version of Photoshop Elements in the guided edit.  It’s not clear how to do it over there, and well you can use the “remove colour cast” to fix it a bit, you’ll have to go to expert to properly adjust it.  Over there, you can head to Filters -> Adjustments -> Filters.  In there, you’ll see both warming and cooling filters.  For snow images, like these dogsledding photos, the temperature tends to be a bit cool.  Thus, using a warming filter cures that.  Of course, if you shoot raw, you can get out of these problems.

White Balance

Using the Crop Suggestions in Photoshop Elements 13

For new photographers, or even ones that have a hard time trying to figure out the right crop for an image, this new crop suggestions tool in PSE13 is great.  If you’re in expert edit and go to crop the image, on the bottom it will give you some suggestions for how to improve the composition.  It’s a smart tool and uses the basic fundamentals of composition to help guide you to the perfect crop.

Crop Suggestions

Making your Colourful Subject Sing

So, you’ve taken my advice and found a nice colourful subject for the snow?  The next thing you need to do is make that subject really stand out.  To make your colour subject sing, add some saturation in PSE13 by going into the guided editor and adjusting the colour saturation.  Don’t go over board here or it will ruin the image quality.  I like to go about +30 or so.

Colour Pop

More Photos from Dogsledding Jasper

I know, too many words, and not enough photos right?  Well, here are a handful of other images from our trip Dogsledding.  It was a bit of a challenge to shoot, but as always seems to be the case with photography, overcoming the challenges leads to the best photos.

Dogsledding Jasper
Dogsledding Jasper
Dogsledding Jasper
Dogsledding Jasper
Dogsledding Jasper
Dogsledding Jasper

What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog?

I’ve got a couple more videos from Jasper National Park in the next couple weeks.  I’ve also got content coming from Drumheller which should be lots of fun.  Then, around Christmas, I’m making my way to the US where I’ll be doing a big American Roadtrip before hitting up South America.  Stay tuned, lots of fun to come.