Winter has pounced on Michigan like a cat landing on an unsuspecting mouse. Where just a week or so ago we were enjoying balmy temperatures in the mid sixties, now waves of lake effect snow are rolling in. The temperatures today didn't get much above 20 F.
And so – time to start snow crystal photography again! This year I’m somewhat prepared – I put together the bellows, macro lens, and lighting setup a few weeks ago, and also cleared out a small space on the table in the garage.
Usually, it takes several days after the first serious cold snap and snow storm before the garage actually cools down to a temperature below freezing – but the deep cold of the last 48 hours has moved that process along pretty well.
And so this evening marked the first snow crystal session of the winter. Overall, it was not too productive.
The first attempt at shooting snow crystals is usually an exercise in re-learning. It’s been months since the last shoot, and getting the eye for the fine focus (no easy thing looking through a foot of extension), lining up the shots, dealing the virtually no depth of field – all this comes back, but only after a few hours of fiddling, remembering, and getting back in synch.
And then there is the snow. Today’s snow was (and still is) coming down too hard, too clumped together. The individual crystals that I did try to get had bounced out of larger clumps, and showed the signs of that passage. The air is more humid that it will be later in the season, and the snow crystals that do emerge individually have more effervescence on them, than the crisp clear crystals of mid winter.
Topping it off, I decided to use the new Pentax K10D for this work. Having only had the camera for a few days, I wasn't sure how it would fare in the cold, and with this sort of extreme macro photography.
The K10D had a few surprises in store for me as well. First off what the discovery that P-TTL does not seem to work with a reverse mounted lens on manual bellows and extension tubes. As a result the flash fired at full power no matter what. It’s always possible that I had things configured wrong – working with long flash cords in sub-freezing temperatures is an invitation for error – but the flash kept defaulting back to just plain “TTL” mode – an older setting not supported by the new camera body.
Well, manual flash is pretty easy to use with a digital body, so I just flipped over to that, adjusted the power settings, and started shooting. The speed of the new camera (its very fast) made it a real pleasure to work with, and the large LCD in back made it easy to assess the quality of shots as they were being taken. And happily, the rechargeable battery seemed to hold up despite the cold and prolonged period of operation.
At the end of the day, I’ll probably go back to the 6 megapixel *ist-D for snow crystal work, if only for the flexibility of TTL flash and being able to use the body’s exposure compensation to fine tune the flash power.
As for the day’s shoot – well, nothing here that would make it into the permanent snow crystal gallery. But then I think about that bleak day in March when I took the first wildflower shots of the spring – and how a pretty good wildflower season rose up out of that humble beginning.
Snowflakes are winter’s wildflowers, and I hope this is the start of a good season.
Comment from: firstname.lastname@example.org Visitor
Thanks a lot for the snowflake pictures. I am using them in my year class to illustrate lattices and to show them how neat Science is.
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