Project:52, sparkly ice (week 4)

miniature ice landscape

I can't get over how magical and surreal a tiny patch of ice can become with the right perspective, perfect sunlight and a simple close-up filter.

Yesterday morning it was cold.  Cold enough to cancel my regularly scheduled morning walk with a friend, cold enough that the snow makes hard crunchy noises underfoot and your breath makes huge clouds around your face, cold enough for most normal people to avoid the outdoors whenever possible.  So why is it, when I looked out the window that morning that I bundled on extra layers of clothing and ran outside into the parking lot?  Well, clearly, because I am a photographer.  (You could probably safely substitute ‘crazy’ for ‘photographer’ in a multitude of cases … this one included!)

But honestly, how could I resist?  The morning sun was just coming up over the rooftops, and that extra-cold snow sparkled all kinds of awesome when the light hit it.  Since Erin and I decided that our weekly photo challenge this week was to bring some sparkle to the snow, I figured that this was the perfect opportunity and not to be missed!  Such are the trials of a photographer really.  We’re always chasing moments, and trying to capture the perfect light.  So who am I to stay cozy inside when that perfect light is sparkling just outside my window?

In fact on this very chilly morning, I actually had to make 2 trips outside to satisfy the photographer bug in me.  When I first saw that gorgeous golden sun kissing the snow, I was just a bit too slow pulling on my winter gear and made it outside just as the sun faded behind a thin layer of clouds.  I was able to get a couple decent shots before my extremities began to chill, but nothing truly sparkly and epic.  Of course, not 15 minutes after I was back inside, the sun broke out of the clouds again … so back out I went.  This time, I noticed the lovely little patch of ice next to our walkway.  Frozen drips from the last warm day had left a bubbly impression on the surrounding snow, and the light was hitting it just perfectly.  What’s a photographer to do but lie down on the concrete and start shooting?  I had one of my close-up filters screwed onto my 50mm 1.4 lens in order to get nice and close to the tiny hills of ice.  Usually I like to keep the lens wide open to blur the background, but with the close-up filter I needed to give myself a bit of extra depth of field in order to capture the sparkly bokeh as the sun reflected off the ice and snow, so I opted for an aperture of 3.5.

Because I was back and forth between inside and out, my white balance inadvertently got left on tungsten.  However, when I checked my screen after the first couple of shots, I really liked the look, so I didn’t bother to switch it to a more accurate setting.  One of the bonuses of shooting files in RAW is that I can always change it back to ‘normal’ later while editing, and I did test it, but in the end the blue was just too cool.  As far as post-processing goes, there was really very little to do:  I increased the contrast with a curves adjustment, de-saturated the blue just a touch, and removed a couple tiny flecks of black seeds that were caught in the ice.  The final image reminds me of some amazing bug photography here … I almost wish I had a teeny figure to include in the scene.  Alas, this morning’s snow has hidden that ice world from view – I’ll have to see if I can get myself a teeny tiny little model (of the non-bug variety, preferably!) before I find the next frozen miniature landscape.