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Snowflake 886 | by Don Komarechka
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Snowflake 886

This unique snowflake was shot with minimalistic equipment: A Venus Optics Laowa 25mm F/2.8 2.5x-5x macro lens and a Lumix GX9 camera. You don’t need expensive gear to shoot snowflakes!


Snowflakes are small – the average size is roughly 3-4mm with the largest reaching just over 11mm from tip to tip. If a Micro Four Thirds sensor is 13.5mm vertically, and a snowflake is 3mm in diameter, you’d need a magnification factor of 4.5x to fill the frame. The Laowa 25mm macro lens just is perfectly in this range, and optically it’s a star performer. It’s better than the canon MP-E 65mm in terms of chromatic aberrations, something that can be quite obvious when shooting snowflakes. Critical resolving power might still go to the Canon MP-E 65mm, but I have no issues using this 25mm macro lens as well.


The Lumix GX9 is a camera I’ve always loved for macro work and have shot some snowflakes with before, but never this combination of camera and lens. One of the reasons? My snowflakes are all shot with a ring flash, which typically attaches via a filter thread adapter. The Laowa 25mm macro lens lacks filter threads. The solution was, obviously, gaffer’s tape. Taped in place it wasn’t the most solid of arrangements, but it worked.


The snowflake itself is an odd one. It appears to have started as a column, from which two plates began to grow in parallel from each side. This is where I get a little lost – there are three central layers. This means that we could have a capped column then splitting one of its sides like the previous snowflake. Multi-tiered crystals are always tricky to analyze!


No matter how you look at it, there was a competition for water vapour between the plates, with the top ones growing much slower. So slow, in fact, that side-branches on the left and right have overtaken the main bottom branch to give the illusion of a five-branched snowflake. It’s all about balance, and whatever sticks out the farthest grows the fastest!


This may be the last snowflake post for a while. It’s been a strange winter. Expect some sporadic snowflakes throughout the year and then a full series starting up in December!


Now, back to working on my book. Productivity is rarity with a preschooler in the house all the time now, but we’re settling into a new normal and finding our place. :) If you’d like to pre-order the book, here’s the link: - note that I’ll be updating the website tomorrow to detail a May production / delivery schedule as things right now are uncertain logistically.

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Taken on February 29, 2020