Categories: "Snow Crystal Photography" or "Snowflake Photography"
February is coming to a close and with it the 2014/15 snowflake photography season starts to wind down. Ironically I've had few opportunities to photograph snowflakes in the past few weeks not because winter is fading and things are warming up, but rather because it is so cold that Lake Michigan has almost completely frozen over. As the ice cover grows on the lake there is less lake effect snow.
Here's a handful of snowflake photos, most from today but with two from last week. All were exceedingly small and were photographed using a 50mm lens reverse mounted on over 350mm of extension - one very gangly set up! Click on the images for larger files.
Two more snowflake photos from last week's storm. These both look like they were forming into sectored plates but show some rime, wear and other irregularities. Both were quite small and I had the reverse mounted 50mm lens on close to 200mm of extension for these. click on the images for larger files:
We had a moderately strong winter storm in west Michigan yesterday, leaving just under 14 inches (35.5 cm) of snow - now being dubbed the Groundhog Day Snowstorm. Unfortunately, the quality of the snow crystals was lacking and despite shooting for about 9 hours (on and off) I only managed to get a handful of acceptable images. This is the best crystal I saw all day... The plate of glass that I catch the crystals on filled up with dusty bits of broken snowflakes when suddenly in the thick of it all this very nicely formed stellar dendrite lands... Not only is it well formed, but it also did not land on top of a lot of debris and detritus, which happens all too often in heavy snows.
The image above is my best take of this crystal - taken with a single red led "lens" (the cover that snaps over a holiday light) on the flash. I positioned the flash so that the red lens was at the edge of the frame, resulting in a crystal that is generally lit by the white light of the flash with red light entering at an angle to create colored highlights.
Before using the red light I tried a few experiments with the yellow lens. Here's the best of those:
In this case the yellow lens is directly below the crystal, so it is getting the full effect of yellow light. In my last experiment I noted the blue color in the crystal, and that is repeated here. I had wondered if it might be the result of the multi-white balance setting, but in experimenting yesterday I found n that multi white balance had no effect on the blue crystal phenomena - so it much just be how the crystal bends the light! I experimented with the yellow filter on a few more crystals, but ultimately abandoned it in favor of the red filter.
More images from yesterday's storm will be coming...
A respectable snowstorm has been working its way through the Great Lakes region today, and I've most of the day outside alternately photographing snowflakes and shoveling them off the sidewalk. Taking a break right now and planning to head back out once feeling returns to my fingers and toes...
Here's the first shot of the day - a very small plate that maybe started to grow towards being a sectored plate, and either stopped or had the plates worn off. This was shot with a single red lens on the flash - I'm not sure what the striations are in the crystal itself. Maybe they are stress fractures - the wind has been howling like a banshee all day and bashing the snow crystals to pieces.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Made with a Pentax K-3, DFA 50mm macro reverse mounted on lots of extension.
I recently put together a new collection of 100 snowflake photos. The gallery ranges from some of the first photos I made (on film) in 1999 through photos made in early 2015. If you are interested in seeing more snowflake photos, follow this link:100 Snowflake Photos (or click the snowflake photo below). Enjoy!
We had a few hours of very light snow yesterday. Unfortunately most of the snowflakes that fell were rime encrusted and poorly formed - like this one. I tried to use the opportunity to experiment with lighting the snow crystal with a yellow light source. For reasons unknown to me, this crystal took on a blue hue, while the golden light filled the background. Maybe it is an artifact of the camera's white balance adjustment, especially since the multi white balance feature was enabled and may have tried to compensate for what the camera thought was different light sources.
Well - better blue snow than yellow snow, I guess!
I light these crystals with a flash mounted below the subject. In a few cases - when the snowflake is opaque and the light cannot pass through it - a slave flash is added above. The flash is the sole source of light when the image is taken, to minimize any effects of camera shake. Given that I use a simple tabletop tripod, and the that the lens is typically mounted on lots of extension, vibrations are always a problem. Instead of trying to fasten things down to be rock steady, I rely on the high speed flash to counter the effects of any vibration.
To color the flash, one or two of the colored "lenses" from C6 LED Christmas lights are placed directly on the flash - like this:
The gradient in the images is achieved by moving the flash slightly. Move the flash a few millimeters in one direction and the light will be dominated by the color of the globe. Move it a little too far in the other direction, and the color will be nil. But in the "just right" location, a nice gradient results.
The next possible snow here in Michigan is predicted to be later this week - hoping to continue with some experiments in lighting at that time.
For those interesting in seeing more snowflake photos, here is a gallery of 100 selected snowflake photos from 1999 through early 2015: 100 Snowflake Photos.
The snowflake photo above was made with a Pentax K-3, DFA 50mm macro reverse mounted on extension and maual flash.
Another snowflake / snow crystal from a few days ago... I rather like the cat face in the center (looks like a cat to me at least...)
This is one of the smaller crystals I've worked with recently - just a couple of millimeters across. I used a Pentax K-3 and reverse mounted 50mm f.28 macro lens with 220mm of extension between the lens and the body to get the needed magnification. Click on the image for a larger view.
I shot this snow crystal in 2002 on slide film (probably E100S). By today's standards it is a rather poor picture - I still use film a lot but for snow crystals, digital is definitely better. (Lower noise, better edge definition.) But for me this was a watershed image in that it was in this shoot that I figured out how to get consistent results. The setup I used to take this image was totally different than what I used in the years before, and still is at the heart of what I do these days.
I proceeded to shoot snow crystals on E100S and Velvia for the next couple of years before upgrading to a DSLR.
Shooting snow crystals on film was pretty challenging - in the early days (1998 and the few years following) I used manual flash and controlled exposure by controlling the flash to subject distance, which I worked out on in a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet running on a 486 DOS computer outside in snow... It felt high tech at the time! Those were fun days.
I'm posting this now in response to a query regarding the Star of David in snow crystals. If you look at this in a certain way you can see a Star of David embedded in this image. Jon Nelson's excellent article "The Six-fold Nature of Snow" helps clarify why snowflakes form in six sided shapes.
Winter is truly here - at last! It was -8F (-22C) this morning with a howling wind. By mid afternoon snow was falling and for brief intervals some nicely formed snowflakes fell. I spent several hours outside, partially shooting and partially shoveling, and managed to eek out a few good photographs.
This is probably the best of the day (click on the image for a larger view):
Lastly - a wee small crystal, one of the last shots for the day:
All images made with a Pentax K-3, DFA 50mm f2.8 macro (reverse mounted on bellows and tubes) and AF360FGZ flash.