-41 (Without the windchill)??? Are you freakin kidding me???

Posted on 10. Mar, 2009 by in Everything, Snowflake

As I write this, the temperature at the International Airport just outside Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (where I live), is a biting-41 Celsius (-41.8 Fahrenheit) and with the wind chill, it feels like a cutting -54 Celsius (-65.2 Fahrenheit).  Are you freakin kidding me?  It’s ten days away from spring and it’s this cold out?  Why in the heck do I live here anyway?

The average high temperature for this time of year is +2 Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit).  The old record at the airport for this date is -29 Celsius.  During the best winters, I get frustrated at this time of year waiting for spring to arrive.  When it is like this it is some form of cruel torture.  If misery enjoys company, it seems much of northern North America is sharing this (hopefully) last break-out of the really cold weather.

It can be hard to remember what I love about living here on a day like this, but one of the things I love is the ability to photograph snowflakes.  So, I thought I’d share a few images with you to help the day pass a little quicker.

Believe it or not, snowflakes actually remind me of warmer (relatively) weather.  The best snowflakes occur (I’m not passing judgment in any way than other a photographic way) when the temperature is between -10 and -15 degrees Celsius (15 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit).  That’s a lot warmer than today.

This first image is of a Stellar Plate that I captured in middle January.  If the term capture bothers you, please rest assured that all wild snowflakes are returned to the wild shortly after their photograph is taken.  I take great care not to harm any snowflakes and I believe they are virtually unaware of their capture, photograph and subsequent release.  It’s all about ethical snowflake photography people.

Stellar Plate

Stellar Plate

This next image is also a Stellar Plate snow crystal.  If you look closely you can see some bubbles trapped in the water vapour when it froze.  Keen observers will also notice a simple Sectored Plate that’s become attached to the bottom-right branch of the crystal.


Stellar Plate

This last image is of a Split Sectored Star.  You’ll notice that this snowflake is decorated in a fashion with small ice particles called rime.  Rime forms when tiny cloud droplets collide with the snowflake during its flight to the earth.  Upon colliding, these droplets froze to the surface of the snowflake.  Typically, the droplets match each others size very closely.  The droplets usually have a diameter of about 0.03mm (0.001 inches), or about half the width of a human hair.

Sectored Plate with rime

Split Sectored Star with rime

I’m not sure if this exercise has helped me warm up at all or even feel better about this incredibly stubborn winter.  Do you have some tips for dealing with a never-ending winter?  Concerns about the capture of wild snowflakes for purely photographic reasons?  Or maybe you’ve got some comments or questions about the snowflake images.  Regardless of your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

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4 Responses to “-41 (Without the windchill)??? Are you freakin kidding me???”

  1. Maria

    10. Mar, 2009

    Jeez, Louise! You really took these photos? Amazing! I suppose you have a microscope/camera setup that you take outside? Or do you also have a walk-in freezer?

    I’m impressed!

    • Paul Burwell

      10. Mar, 2009


      Thanks for compliment. Yup, I really took those.

      No crazy microscope set up, just an extreme macro lens. All photos were taken in the outdoors out of the wind.

      Imagine the craziest flight photography you’ve ever done. Tracking a Chickadee, Humming Bird or Swallow swooping at your head. Now magnify that 10x for the completely random flight of a falling snowflake. Further that with the approximate 1mm of depth-of-field your left with and waiting for the moment the snowflake lines up perfectly perpendicular to the lens and you’ve got some idea what’s going on. Oh, and if you buy that stuff about photographing the snowflake while it’s falling, I’ve got a really nice bridge you might be interested in too. 🙂

      Photography setup consists of a copy stand, a macro lens with extenders, a coffee can, some wood blocks, lighting and a garden shed.

  2. David

    22. Mar, 2009

    Oh great Paul… I can see it now, some poor unknowing photographer running around in a field chasing snowflakes,, with someone walking up to them and asking what they’re shooting. =)


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