As winter marches on it can take a toll on the body and mind. However, the most creative minds, like those of imaginative photographers, see the true beauty in the season and the unlimited potential for capturing unique, stunning, and unforgettable shots. One of the most popular ways of capturing winter’s beauty today is by using macrophotography to reveal the intricacy of snowflakes.
Generally speaking, macrophotography is when a photographer increases the object’s size well beyond life-size proportions. National Geographic explains the extreme form of close-up photography in this way: “Macro photography is photography magnified. It is generally recognized as “macro” when you are increasing the size of an object in your picture from about half life-size, as represented on the image sensor, to five times life-size.” Applying that idea of extreme magnification to fallen snowflakes produces breathtaking images.
Winter’s abundant subject matter
When a photographer begins exploring the potential of using macrophotography to capture the minute details of snowflakes, every snowfall is a welcome sight. The typical subject matter for macrophotographers is insects, flowers, and other miniscule warm weather characters, but in the winter, those all vanish. Thankfully, snowfall is an abundant occurrence throughout the country and with macrophotography, artists can take shots right on their balcony, patio, or deck. All that’s required is the right gear, setup, and a bit of patience to expose the wonder of snowflakes.
Along with the element of snow, the artist needs a few essential tools at hand when it comes to a camera, lenses, and background. Don Komarechka from DigitalPhotographySchool.com goes into in-depth detail about the best setup for a shoot of this nature but here’s a breakdown of the basic required elements:
- Camera with powerful magnification
- Extension tubes or close-up filters for macro lens
- Ring flash
- Ability to adjust angle of shot
- Dark-colored mitten or fabric with texture
Komarechka prefers using an old black mitten as the stage for his snowflake photography. He does this because the mitten provides a dark background so the snowflake stands out, the fibers of the mitten hold the snowflake lightly enough to prevent melting, and the fibers of the mitten are easy to edit out during processing.
Snowflake photography process
While it takes some experimentation for each photographer to find a setup and process that works best for them, Don Komarechka explains his process as a way of helping other artists understand what’s involved. He stresses the importance of not wearing the mitten and instead setting it out because the warmth of your hand will transfer to the fibers and quickly melt the snow. As the snowflakes fall on the mitten, examine them and seek out the most beautiful ones, those that are “big, clean snowflakes with lots of branches.” It’s best to shoot during the snowfall because their composition changes quickly and details can be lost, but if this isn’t possible, gently place the mitten on fresh snow, pick it up and examine the snowflakes clinging to the fibers to see if any of them are viable subjects. Komarechka takes multiples frames of the same snowflake and combines them during processing to reveal snowflake intricacies such as prismatic colors and surface reflections in the final shot. It can easily take him over 100 frames to capture a handful of print-worthy snowflake images.
With all the effort, practice, time, and experimentation put into great macrophotography of snowflakes, it’s vital that the final images receive the ultimate finish with expert matting and framing. Baboo Digital has one of the most experienced finishing departments in Manhattan and experts on-hand to assist artists decide on the perfect way to preserve and display their images.