Yes, there are a few exclamation points on the end of “How to Take Snowflake Pictures!!!!” I’m excited, ok?
It takes a certain snowstorm to be able to take snowflake pictures. Do you know when you look outside and there are big fat snowflakes meandering their way down from the sky? That’s what we need. We got very little snow this winter, and the few storms we had produced very icy snow or very wet snow. Honestly, I had given up hope of attempting snowflake pictures this winter!
But then, Friday night happened.
Snow flurries with big, fat, individual snowflakes!
The *most* important part of taking macro photos – especially when using extension tubes like I do – is having enough light. After dinner time during a snowstorm is certainly not prime light conditions, and I happened to be on the road when I noticed them and I did not have any extra lighting with me.
Luckily, I was driving by a McDonald’s. This was the one time I’ve been thankful for gratuitous commercial light pollution.
The other defining factor of taking snowflake pictures is that you have to stand out in the cold. With no gloves on. I don’t handle the cold very well, and I shiver a lot.
Ok, so lighting was not the best, and my camera was shaking. Gotta roll with it!
Without a tripod, I needed to keep my shutter speed as quick as possible. I cranked up the ISO to 6400 and had my aperture at f/5.6. I probably could have played with these a little more and a higher f-stop would have been helpful for a few pics, but it was working, and did I mention it was cold?
Taking the pictures on the car actually worked quite well. They melted as soon as they hit my hood, of course, but the sides and the bumpers were fair game and made a great background.
Well, unless your car is white.
Mostly due to the lack of tripod, most of the pictures came out like this. Ew. Such a waste of an amazing snowflake!!
I did manage to get a few good ones, though. 🙂
Once back home, the pictures hit Photoshop for some necessary tweaking, especially thanks to the light. A little level adjustment, a little brightness and contrast adjustment, and a high pass layer for one pic (a neat trick! Create a new copy of the background layer, run a high pass filter on that which you’ll find under ‘other,’ and use a hard light or soft light layer type. I usually find that it’s too harsh for my nature pictures, but in this case it works!)…..
lessons learned after attempt #1.
1) Use a tripod if possible! Of if now, wear more layers than I did so that you are not shivering.
2) Lots and lots light. Lots and lots. And lots.
3) Act quick! Chances are, the temp is hovering right around freezing when these flakes are falling, and as soon as they hit a surface they are going to start melting.
4) Don’t worry if you need to sharpen or adjust the contrast with Photoshop. Everyone does it. I promise.
5) Enjoy it. I was getting some, um, weird looks, from folks waiting for the drive thru at McDonald’s, but they did not know what they were missing! I actually hoped that at least one or two would stop and ask what I was doing… sharing the beauty that can be found when to slow down to look is one of our main goals here at dirty botany!
Although I’m REALLY glad it’s almost spring, I’d be ok with ONE more little snowstorm if it gave me a few more snowflakes to play with….
**Don’t forget to check out our post on my favorite Macro-photography equipment here! **