Snow Scenes and Snowflakes
I would like to photograph snow scenes where the snow is actually falling, and capture the image of snowflakes in the scene. Is this possible?
Thanks for the help in advance.
One way to do this is to use a fill flash. Just set your normal exposure and set the flash to fill. When it goes off, it will freeze the flakes near the camera in mid fall. If you shoot from under a cover, like a tree, the flakes will be farther from the camera and look more natural.
The trick with snowflakes is getting them in focus (if they're close to the camera) or big enough to be recognizable (if they're far from the camera).
A flash is good advice. You'll also have the greatest success if you shoot in a significant snowstorm, when the air is really dense with big fat snowflakes. But if it's windy and there's a lot of 'snowdust' in the air, then your flash will be bouncing off all kinds of stuff that you won't be able to resolve.
I had great success in capturing snow flakes falling, by locating a dark background.
With a dark(ish) background, be it foliage or buildings, the light coloured falling snow, is a breeze to capture.
Given that I live in a country where snow isn't all over the place, I thought long and hard, on how I would capture falling snow.
In Germany last Christmas, I also discovered that you can capture the essence of falling snow under street lights. The falling snow becomes dark(ish) generally, exposures with which I obtained good pictures, were around the 1/4 to 1/8 of a second. Snow falls a lot slower than rain, wet snow falling in the 0C to -5C falls quite fast, dry snow falling around -14C was a completely different kettle of fish. It fell really slowly, swirling in the slightest of breezes. Things, I never knew about.
I was using a 24mm lens wide open at 2.8 and using Fuji Neopan 400 rated at 320 ASA. for the night shot.
The daylight pictures can be quite successful when taken with a 105mm lens, whilst tracking a moving subject with a dark background.
People walking through the frame under the street light, added a terrific quality to the moodiness.
The only downside was the cold factor, I don't really have the correct clothing for the temperatures!
Cliff, I saw this post and uploaded a couple of pictures to the general gallery (Black Oaks, Snow Squall and Snowy Trees and Granite) to reference for moving snowflakes. As Mick states, a dark background helps to create contrast so the flakes show up and I've also found 1/15 of a second to be a nice speed to blur the flakes into white lines working with my 135mm lens on my Pentax 67.
If you a looking to freeze the motion of the flakes, you'll need brighter conditions, faster film or lenses, or both. Motion is relative to the focal length of the lens, the distance the moving object covers during the exposure and which direction things are moving. Using the rule of thumb for freezing motion of 1 over the inverse of the focal length of the lens is a good starting point. That means for a 100mm lens that you'd start with an exposure of 1/125 of second.
The most compelling images I've seen of frozen flakes were taken with telephoto lenses that compress the scene and magnify the size of the flakes relative to the background. Wide apertures tend can also work to exaggerate the size of flakes, blurring those not in the plane of focus to white blobs.
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Most snow flake images I have seen have washed out flakes in the fore ground with no texture what so ever. If you use flash, you, will need to determin your aperature setting based on the nearest to the lens flakes which will probably mean the smallest aperature to preserve the soft highlights.
I would experiment using a constant manual setting on the flash, not automatic which judges the flash based on what gets bounced back to the sensor. Then bracket with the aperature and proccess using an N-1 or N-2 development time, again to reduce contrast and preserve the soft flakes. Using a fast shutter speed will not effect the flash exposure but will freeze the flakes, if that is what you are after.
This could have some interesting possibilities.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
I agree on flash, but if you use it well off camera at an angle you can light up flakes that are further away, curing both the focus issue and the tendency with on camera flash to get over large overexposed flakes.