Photographing Hoarfrost on Christmas day

Frosty rose  Rosehips  Icycle  Frost sculpture  Frosty leaves  Cattail  Frost hanging  Winter pineneedles  Hoarfrost and snowy fence

Christmas day couldn’t have been better. The sausages and champagne additions to our ordinary breakfast of coffee, yogurt, and bagels was yummy, and my wife, Linda, and I were happy with our presents. Yes, it was a great Christmas morning and to make it even better, when I went outside to feed my chickens, I noticed everything, well, everything but my hungry chickens, was coated with hoarfrost.

The day was overcast and sometime during the evening another inch or so of snow made its way to our yard and the surrounding forest, and I guess that chilled the air around the already freezing surfaces created what this photographer can best describe as a wonderland of frozen, white, crystalline frost.

I attached a ring-flash to my 200mm macro lens and mounted it on my camera. My wife chose an 18-200mm lens for her camera, and then we donned our boots, and warm coats, and headed out.

Linda began trudging through the deep snow in our yard picking out interesting snow and frost covered features. She wasn’t using a flash, but had her camera set at ISO 1600. The high ISO allowed her to choose faster shutterspeeds so she could leave her tripod behind.

Even though there was a light cloud cover, the day was perfect, with just enough light to give the frost a slight illumination on the snowy morning.

I was shooting close-ups and could have easily selected one of the automated modes in the shadowless, flat light; but using the ring-light on my lens allowed me to underexpose and slightly darken the background to build some dimension and depth in the images I was making of the hoarfrost-covered foliage.

Selecting manual modes for both flash and camera, plus a low ISO of 100, gave me more control over my subjects. I made exposures at 1/250th of a second and adjusted the aperture to control how much depth of field I wanted. I like using flash when I do close-up or macro photography. Whether it’s wandering around in the rain like I wrote about last August or on a frosty Christmas day, adding light from a flash allows a photographer to build the image, not just document it.

I thought about putting a flash on a stand and shooting wirelessly by positioning a flash at different angles, but the mobility of the ring-light mounted around the end of my lens worked pretty well for the type of photographs I was making, and besides I could easily walk everywhere and after our Christmas breakfast I think I needed the exercise.

The frosty morning pictures were a good addition to those Linda and I made of each other earlier. I have closed my shop till after the New Year, so there will be lots of time for more picture taking in the snow-covered landscape.

I hope everyone has a great Year End with best wishes from Linda and I.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photography on a Frosty Morning

 Daybreak was foggy within a white, crystallized wonderland of hoarfrost-decorated trees and vegetation.  That scene is what I have been waking up to every day this past week. The damp cold has been bothersome, but what photographer could pass up such a creative opportunity to wander through frosty woods and fields trying out different lenses and locations. I like the search and the discovery.

This morning I talked my wife, Linda, into venturing out into the cold to photograph the hoarfrost in her garden. For that we each mounted macro lenses on our cameras and I included a flash mounted on a light stand for both of us. There was a time when we would have been burdened with wires running from the flash to camera, but those days have passed now that wireless flash technology has become the standard.

The morning was overcast and foggy, so the addition of flash was a must in the dim light.  I have a ring flash that I like to use when I photograph plants, but the white crystalline hoarfrost would have been easily over exposed with the direct light from a flash mounted around my lens and I wanted to preserve as much of the delicate details as possible. All we had to do was position our flashes for the best light angle.

Our cameras allowed us to sync the shutterspeed above 1/250th of a second. Many modern cameras have a feature in their menus called “Hi-Sync” or something close to it and I recommend readers check their manuals on how to select and use a high flash synchronizing speed so they won’t be limited to 1/250th of a second shutterspeed.

Handholding at 1/500th of a second (or greater) reduces camera shake and with the addition of flash it is easy to stop any plant movement. Whenever I use a flash outside I like to reduce the ambient light by a stop or two so that if I didn’t use a flash the scene and subject would have been under exposed, consequently, I add the flash to illuminate the main subject, and those elements that the flash doesn’t affect are under exposed, and that flash is off camera sending light from the side or the rear, not limiting us to the on camera flash directly in front of the subject, or forcing us to position ourselves dependent on the sun.

We had a lazy morning and got out late, so although we both prefer to use tripods for close-up photography, we needed to working fast as the temperature rose. We could hear and see the crystals falling with the morning breeze. I suppose if we had a warm outside couch and been bundled up, just sitting on the porch would have been nice. Nevertheless, we got right into photographing our frosty subjects only stopping when we had to reposition our flash.

I approach and light a plant the same way I would a person. I begin by checking the exposure with my camera meter. I always use manual mode so in today’s foggy low light and because I was using hi-sync I could keep my shutterspeed at 1/650th and sometimes higher. Next I chose the best angle of view for my subject, and as always pay attention to what’s in the background. Lastly, I move the light around making exposures until I am satisfied with the highlights and shadows on my subject just as I would if I were doing portraiture of an individual.

I like foggy, frosty mornings and the last few days have been a great time to wander around with my camera. Soon everything is going to change. The frosty vegetation will be replaced with green buds and the cold, foggy, overcast days will be filled with sunny days and blue sky. Yes, I am looking forward to that, but for now winter is a creative challenge and I wouldn’t change it.

www.enmanscamera.com

And thanks to 96arley (www.shootabout.com) for the nomination.