Photography

How I photograph snow flakes in macro


Even though we are now officially in spring, some parts of the country may still experience bouts of snow. Our recent near record snowfall got me wanting to share my technique for macro snowflake photography. It’s easy and works great for me.

With most macro type photography, it’s best to use a tripod and a cable release. Any shaking will cause a blurry photo and it can be difficult to hold your camera still by hand while photographing the tiny crystals.

Once you’ve got your chosen macro lens on your camera, place it on your tripod and attach your cable release. If the snow is more on the wet side I’ll cover my camera with a plastic grocery bag to keep it dry. I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag so it’s big enough to slide over my lens. I then slide the bag just far enough over my camera so I can see through the view finder. There are camera covers you can purchase, but basic plastic shopping bags work great for me. I keep a few in all of my camera bags just in case it starts to rain when I’m photographing in the outdoors.

Now, find something such as a table to use as a backdrop for snow flakes to fall onto. I use old fleece or knit pull overs in dark colors such as black or blue, to cover my table or base. Using dark colors really helps make the snow flakes stand out in your photos. The fleece or knit material will also help the snow flakes to have something to “grab” onto and not blow away. It can also slow down the melting process if it’s warmer out or the sun is shining.

I usually try to keep the sun on my back even if it’s cloudy. Sometimes I’ll keep a low power flashlight handy to shine on the snowflakes if it’s too dark or cloudy. The extra added light will give you a pleasant rainbow affect on the snow flakes.

Now, to find your sweet spot with your camera and lens, you’ll need to adjust your tripod’s height to the height of your base or just above it. Once you are happy with the height, move your tripod back and forth and start focusing your lens on the individual snow flakes. All cameras and lens are different, so it may take a few minutes to find the perfect positioning for clear shots. I like to use ball heads on my tripods so it’s easy to adjust in any direction.

Every once in a while, depending on how hard the snow is falling, you’ll need to shake off the accumulation from the base or you’ll have trouble focusing on the individual flakes. I like to completely cover up my lens and camera before I shake off the snow. This will keep your lens and camera from getting wet. Keep a microfiber cloth handy in case you need to wipe off any moisture on the lens or camera.

The snow flakes in the photos posted below were from a wet snow fall. They melted rather quickly after they landed. As time went on, the air cooled and the crystals became more sharply pointed.

Macro photography in the winter months can be a lot of fun! Just make sure to dress warm and keep your camera covered the best you can. Soon you’ll forget about the cold and will be in love with what you see in the tiny frosty world.

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