Shot with the Lumix GX9 – now we’re talking! Still not the most pristine specimen, but the detail and sharpness are there for a snowflake on a micro four thirds body! Read on to see how this was made.
My initial results with the GX9 were complicated with diffraction, so I took a slightly different approach here. This is taken with the Canon MP-E 65mm F/2.8 1x-5x macro lens mounted with a glassless adapter to the camera, made by K&F Concepts ( https://www.kentfaith.com/m43-lens-adapter/KF06.090_canon-eos-to-micro-four-thirds-m4-3-mount-adapter ). This has some advantages over a SpeedBooster, in that the camera is only seeing the center area of the image circle and maintains higher effective magnification. With no communication to the lens, the aperture blades stay wide open at F/2.8, which helps defeat the issues with diffraction as well.
Here’s the kicker – only 14 images were needed to stack this snowflake, down considerably from a traditional full-frame camera. This is due to the lesser magnification needed on the lens itself, which provides a further working distance from the subject. Since the ring flash is attached to the end of the lens, it allows the diffuse light from the flash to spread out farther, allowing the snowflake to be photographed more straight-on… and fewer images are needed!
This snowflake was from a recent storm that produced mostly rime-covered crystals that weren’t what I would call “beautiful”. Rime occurs when a snowflake passes through layers of super-cooled water droplets (not vapour) that freeze on impact with the snow, causing little warts. This snowflake has quite a few of these impacts across its surface, but most of the crystals were completely unrecognizable as snowflakes. They appeared as little blobs and balls of fuzzy ice.
When a snowflake grows quickly, the hard chiseled outer angles form into more pointed tips – this snowflake shows signs of faster growth, but also sublimation. They are too rounded, meaning that they have been evaporating. This was shot in the daytime at higher temperatures (still below freezing), which allows a snowflake to disappear more quickly. 5-10 minutes after a snowflake falls to the ground in these conditions it has already started to fade, though still I consider it beautiful.
If you look closely, you’ll also notice some rainbow colours in the branches. Ridges and bubbles inside the ice can often act like prisms, splitting the white light from the flash into a colour spectrum. They don’t often function like a perfect prism, selecting certain colours more prominently than others based on slight defects in the ice. It’s subtle, but these colours really help to bring a snowflake to life!
As this daily series continues, consider picking up a copy of Sky Crystals, the 304-pg hardcover book on the topic of snowflakes, both from a popular science and a photography tutorial perspective. Less than 50 copies remain! https://www.skycrystals.ca/