When life gives you snow…

Posted on 24. Feb, 2009 by in Everything, Everything Else, Snowflake, Techniques

When life gives you snow – I don’t know about the part of the world that you live in, but here on the frozen prairie of Alberta, it is looking like anything but spring.  As I write this, it is snowing quite heavily and the temperature is about – 17 celcius (about 1 degree Farenheit).  Sure, it’s been snowier and colder this winter, but I’m on the edge of getting a little antsy for spring.

Now, I could be a good boy and head a bit north of the city to search out some owl activity or head to Elk Island National Park (just about 20 minutes east of Edmonton) to look for some chilly wildlife.  Heck, I could even head down to one of the local park’s bird feeders to try photographing the local siskins, chickadees, grosbeaks or redpolls.

But occasionally, the falling snow is just about perfect (about – 8 to -12 Celcius or 17 to 10 degrees Farenheit) and it just begs to be photographed.  Now I’m not talking about any sort of crazy snowflake flight photography where you’d follow the snowflake’s fall through the sky and with your razor thin depth-of-field of a few millimeters and find a way to snap a cool photo of soemthing that’s only about 2-4 centimetres (.08 – .16 inches) in diameter.  Rather, I’m talking about using a rig built for serious macro photography.

To catch a snowflake I stand in the falling snow wearing my big black down-filled parka and watch the snowflakes accumulate on my sleeve.  Eventually one will catch my eye and I will carefully retreat with it into a close-by shed where I attempt to move the delicate little ice crystal from the jacket sleeve onto my glass support to photograph it.  Don’t worry, all wild snowflakes are returned to the wild although I’m sure they have some excellent abduction stories to share with their buddies.

What’s frustrating about snowflake photography is that the conditions need to be just right.  On top of that, a tremendous amount of beautiful snowflakes smash themselves into oblivion upon landing crashing into my sleeve. And then there is my ham fingered snowflake transfer technique that is always sure to destroy a few excellent candidates.  But, with enough patience and perserverance, one eventually prevails and after a four to five hours I return to the heated confines of my digital darkroom to discover what I’ve captured.

I’m fortunate to live in a part of the world that affords me the opportunity (for about six never-ending months!!!!) to photograph these wonders of nature.  Like all crystals, they are truly marvelous to behold.  And so when life gives you snow, photograph it.

Here’s a couple of examples from yesterday’s 5 hours of snowflake photography.  (Remember that you can click on the images to view larger versions)


Fernlike Stellar Dendrite

Fernlike Stellar Dendrite

Fernlike Stellar Dendrite

When I first showed some of my snowflake images to my buddy Marty he exclaimed…”You, did not take those!!!!” and so I’d just like to reassure everyone that yes, I did make these images.

Tags: , , , , ,

6 Responses to “When life gives you snow…”

  1. marty

    25. Feb, 2009

    As said buddy ‘Marty’ I can insure that the for mentioned quote was taken out of context and used without expressed written permission of the rights holder. Paul of course is a great photographer of everything wild & frosty… but I have to admit I’d never seen snowflakes with such great detail. I’m just glad he stopped taking pictures of them melting on his tongue.

  2. A.J. Wood

    25. Feb, 2009

    Beautiful images. Well done.

  3. Pat W.

    25. Feb, 2009

    Spectacular! Just goes to show that patience & persistence can pay off. (Or at least they can when paired with enormous talent.)

  4. Mark

    04. Mar, 2009

    I am glad to read someone talking about ethical snowflake photography. 🙂


  1. When life gives you snow… - Paul Burwell (WildShots) | Photo News Today - February 25, 2009

    […] Source and Read More: paulburwell.com […]

  2. Heard Around the Interwebs : A.J. Wood - Adobe Instructor is shouting "Burn your ship!" - February 25, 2009

    […] some great macro photography this morning via Twitter. Paul Burwell snaps snowflakes up close. Really […]