Categories: Snow Crystal Photography, Snowflake Photography
This winter is turning out to be disappointing. We’ve had day after day of warm temperature, often barely dropping below freezing even in the evenings. What little snow we have gotten has been sloppy an d mixed with rain.
Last weekend we finally had a hard snow and a true blast of cold weather. While the detached garage in which I take these snow crystal photos had cooled down a bit, it still took till the next morning to finally drop below freezing inside the structure - even though it was well below freezing outside.
And so on Saturday morning I set up the camera and managed to get one, just one, snow crystal photo. The snow stopped just as I set up the rig and prepared to start photographing. Here’s the one photo I did get - click for larger version.
And here we are - another warm day and rain on the way. Maybe more crystals will come soon…
Note: This post originally appeared in the Story of Snow’s blog - www.storyofsnow.com - on February 17, 2010. Since many these photos have not appeared here before, I’m reposting it here in Calarti.
And besides - it’s 55F and raining on this particular December evening, so no snow crystal photos in the near future this winter!
If you are interested in the classification system, checkout Jon Nelson’s original post on the subject which can be found here.
February 17, 2010:
I found Jon’s post regarding the Magono-Lee Snow Crystal classification system to be quite interesting. Here are some more shots from Monday night - I’ll see if I can classify them… something tells me that will be more difficult than it sounds.
Let’s start with something simple. My first guess is that the two crystals that follow would be classified as P2d - Dendrite with Sector-like ends:
It looks like that crystal bumped into a couple of simple plates along the way, and they are stuck to it in the lower right quadrant.
The one below has one spot of rime on it - which I assume is not enough to knock it into the rimey category, so it too is a P2d:
This one is similar in general form to the one above, but has a bit of rime spotting it up. I guess it would fall under rimed stellar R1d under Magono-Lee’s system. Personally, I think it would make more sense to have rime as a qualifier of the basic shape, so if I was cooking up a classification scheme I’d call this a Dendrite with Sector-like ends with moderate rime. Maybe P2d-r2.
The next one is a 12 branched crystal without rime, so it is either a P4a (broad branched with 12 branches) or a P4b (dendrite with 12 branches.) Personally, I’d call it a 12 branched variant of the P2d formation, which we just saw above. Maybe P2d-2x? Well - under the existing system it is either a P4a or P4b…
You may have noticed what looks like a sectored plate emerging from one arm at about the 8 o’clock position - that appears to be a growth at the end of that arm.
OK - let’s get back to something simple. I think the following are all ordinary dendrites - P1e.
This first one has a ‘crack’ in the center plate - something I’ve seen several times. I’m not sure what causes it.
And I’ll close out with three rimey subjects, the first two would be R1d - Rimed Stellar and, I think, the last one would be R2b - Densely Rimed Stellar. Though one might think it was a densely rimed fernlike stellar dendrite - maybe P1f-r3, eh?
Magono-Lee is an interesting classification system. I don’t understand exactly why it places such an emphasis on rime at the expense of the core structure of the crystal. It seems to me that rime is an incidental condition independent of the core structure of the crystal. Classifying rimey crystals as a distinct group is sort of like lumping all molting birds into a distinct group. But just as Nietzsche observed that histories reveal almost as much about the historians who wote them as about actual past events, I’d speculate that classification systems tell us a bit about the people who developed them as well as the subjects being classified. Maybe rime was important to Magono or Lee…
Here are a few snow crystal photos from the Groundhog Day blizzard of 2011 - I posted these on the Story of Snow blog a while back -
Here it is, bleak mid winter. The skies are gloomy and grey and days pass without a hint of sunshine. A little snow covers the ground. It is cold.
It snows, now and then, and I’ve been going outside to take snow crystal photographs. But the snow is opaque, dusty, and effervescent. Hours spent collecting snow crystals result in only mediocre images, as all the crystals are broken, odd or irregular.
The other night, after a few hours of collecting and discarding snowflakes, I realized just how selective this whole process is. The snow crystals I decide to display are the most regular and symmetric of the snow crystals I choose to photograph, which are the most regular and symmetric of the ones I gather. It seems that the vast majority of the crystals actually flying around in the air or landing on earth are irregular or broken, odd and ugly. I ignore them and focus attention on a small percentage that flatter my construct of how snow crystals really should be. Nature speaks with a loud and clear voice, but I hear only one word out of a thousand, and misunderstand even those.
Hmmm… Too much time spent out in the cold. Here are a few shots from the last couple of weeks:
This December has proven to be pretty cold - I noticed folks ice fishing in the last few day s- but aside from a little snow at the start of the month, it’s been pretty dry. Here are a few more snow crystals from the second good snow of December . As this month winds into the holidays and then to an end, no snow is in the forecast. Hoping for a productive 2011!
Hard to believe that just last week it was a balmy 53 degrees and warm gentle breezes were pushing the last fall leaves around on the sidewalks. The temperatures have dropped, the lake effect snow has begun, and here we are on December 6, with the first snow crystal shots of 2010/11. They aren’t particularly interesting, but they hold the promise for more to come.
We had a really good snow one evening last week - and the result was almost 20 decent snowflake photographs - I’m still processing the raw files. Here’s a sample:
I’ve been remiss in posting snow crystal photos here, so here’s a quick roundup of some of the better shots so far from this winter.
I just prepped the raw file for this one today, so it is my current favorite:
The red filter came through more as a red spatter on that photo.
The aperture blades jammed on the trusty old Pentax M50 f4 macro lens that I use for these shots, and in the thick of shooting last week I switched over to an M50 f 2.0 - a lens considered to be relatively unremarkable. As you can see by the shot above, it holds its own regarding sharpness. (I have since found the adapter ring that is needed to use a Sigma 50mm EX macro on the setup, and will be using that in the future.)
I’ve made several changes to the technique for shooting these. First off, I’ve finally ditched my old Pentax *ist-D and started using the newer Pentax K7 for these shots. The drawback is that it does not suppport TTL autoflash. It’s not a big deal to shoot with manual flash with the histogram etc.
Here’s another recent shot:
I’ve been using a red and blue ‘filter’ (actually just the clear plastic covers from holidy LED bulbs) on the flash. In the photo above the two colors blended together to make a more or less purple tone. Here are a two examples of where the colors remained distinct:
Here’s an earlier shot where the colors melded nicely:
In this case, the snow crystal landed on its side. It was tiny, but I liked how it suggested a side view of a falling crystal - a little negative space on the top and there you go:
The snow has been uncooperative for most of this winter. It has snowed relatively little for Michigan - it all seems to be falling in the mid-Atlantic this winter. When it does fall it is often opaque and fluffy - I call it effervescent. The opaque parts look fluffy white when viewed in daylight, but come out dark when backlit:
And lastly - just a couple of garden variety snow crystals:
It it snows more I’ll try to take more photos, and if successful I’ll post them here.
The Story of Snow is featured in today’s USA Today’s Book Roundup - in an article entitled Weather the Winter with a Picture Book. The book is described as “an artistic science lesson about the rise and fall of snow crystals.” The article also features Carl’s Snowy Afternoon by Alexandra Day, Life in the Boreal Forestby Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin and Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
You can read the on-line version here:
Last night I spoke at the Grand Rapids Camera Club and provided a demo of how to take snow crystal photo. The turnout was great with well over 100 people in the room, and it was a lot of fun. A splendid time was had by all.
The presentation is a bit of a stroll down memory lane and the evolution of the process I use to take snow crystal photos. Of course, it starts at the beginning, with the very first snow crystal shots I managed to make. Here they are - from the winter of 1998/99. It was my second or third try at it, only very small crystals were falling, and on a wing and prayer I snapped a few shots with a high magnification setup, manual flash, and ancient Spotmatic film camera. I was really happy with the results, but it was the end of the season and there were no more opportunities that winter.
It took me a few more years till I was able to duplicate these results, but these photos gave me the inspiration to keep on trying…
I’ve been posting more in the Story of Snow blog these last few weeks, so if you are interested in what’s happening with the book or in some fastinating articles about frost by Jon Nelson, hop over there - the url is:
A nice lake effect snow blew in early this morning to greet the new year. I spent a little time photographing out in the garage. It’s a new year so I tried a couple of new ideas for lighting the snow crystals - this one worked! Not much else to show for the morning’s shoot, and by 10 a.m. the snow had stopped and has not yet returned. Hopefully there will be more chances later this weekend.