Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fourth Day of Christmas: More snowflakes

"Snowflakes are the wildflowers of winter that bloom in the sky."
That was the thought that popped into my head as I beheld the snowflakes that had fallen in my snowbound garden yesterday morning.
(My brain keeps saying that the phrase needs work...thanks a bunch La Jolla High School English composition teachers! Forty years later and I can still hear your guiding and chiding voice.)

Any hoo...

Yesterday's snowflake photo op in Millcreek really rev'd my creative photography engine.
Happily the very next day it continued to snow and snow with great snowflakes!
By great snowflakes I mean snowflakes that have elegant shapes as opposed to the fuzzy white balls that so often occur during snow showers.
This time I got out my lens collection, my tripod, and got down to some serious trial and error work.

I actually started with my 50mm lens, then tried my 55-250 telephoto lens on tripod, then for this shot, used my "kit" lens, the 18-55 mm that came with my Rebel 2ti camera, the one I used yesterday, only this time I screwed on a magnifier lens in front of the lens.
Magnifier lens are available on ebay and most camera stores for under $30 and up.

I was holding my camera for this shot, with my shoulder braced against the front door porch posts to steady myself.

The sharp focus area with the magnifier lens is about the size of a pin head.
Aiming at the exact center of the snowflake is a must!
Cropping down to the tiny amount of clear image later is also a must.
It really is unlikely that one can shot from one inch away without having a microscope mounted camera.

Now picture this: I am in my decades old powder suit and lime green snow cap, sitting on our front steps looking closely at the yew bush trying to find great snowflakes.
The neighbors must have thought I was nuts.

I also spent time on my knees with my glasses lowered down on my nose with my face just inches away from the snow on the ground.
It turns out that if one sticks a needle into a pencil erasers, one can pick up snowflakes from snow piles and move the snowflake to a better photographing location.
Sometimes the flake slips off, sometime it shatters.
If first you don't succeed...
I did learn to hold the needle beneath the flake for about three seconds before moving it.
The flake sticks to the needle better.
It is also more difficult to slide it off the needle that way but nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

This was a snow pile harvested snowflake scraped off onto the yew bark.

Experimenting with moving flakes around only took up about two hours of my life.

The deck coffee table still have one pepper plant that has shriveled up and the chilies need plucking and storing.
I moved a snowflake onto one of the chili tips, then set up my tripod and my telephoto lens, in an experiment to see if I could get a clear shot that way.
See the white blob on the tip of that one chili?

Here it is shot from about five feet away with my 55-250 lens, using a timer option to avoiding shaking the camera when clicking, and also using the sports fast shutter option.

Now I am kicking myself that I didn't just use the kit lens with the magnifier.

Bernie LOVES these shots though.

Earlier I had tripoded and shot with a snowflake where it had fallen on the deck gate rail.
Actually this was my first shot of the day before I moved on to my "experiments".
I think you will see a learning curve!

It felt really good to eventually retire to the kitchen and warm up a bit.
What else did I do on the fourth day of Christmas?
We joined our son's family and his in-laws for dinner.
Luke is their only grandchild as well.
The "Prince" was admired non-stop, and as his gift to his out of town grandmother, he began to crawl up on his hands and knees for the first time while she was babysitting him.
Wiggle waggle bottom time!
Such fun...

All for now.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Third Day of Christmas: Snowflakes and Temple Square

Well I went back up to Mill Creek with every intention of taking a good long hike.

The neighbor's gift of own pralines and divinity...and lots of other unrestrained self treating needed some redress if I still would like to fit into some of my dresses, if you get my drift.

I only stopped to take pictures a few times on the way up to the groomed trail area.

(The fact that I had my camera with me should have revealed to me that I really wasn't that serious about hiking actually.)

I admit it: I am a glutton for candy and eye candy.

The temps were in the low 20s; the wet looking roads were thankfully well salted.

This time I didn't have the canyon all to myself.
I didn't mind...and no one seemed to mind me pulling off the road at will to take pictures.
Once I got up to the groomed area I parked and started to get out my snowshoe gear.
But I was distracted.

The car was being covered with amazing snowflakes!

I grabbed my camera again, staying in my snow boots that are not really that warm.

My powder suit wasn't really all that warm either.
It would have been if I had been moving about.
But in this case I was totally focused on standing as still as I possibly could for each camera click.

Using the sports/high speed setting and my regular "kit" lens, I just wedged myself as much as possible and started shooting.

The high speed shooting setting helped with the micro movements I made just clicking the camera.

Most of these flakes are on the edge of my side mirror or along the black trim beneath the windows.

I did prowl around the cars next to my car to see if I could see cool flakes there.
The red car next to mine had a few goodies.

The parking area had been well salted and the snow turned to slush around my feet.

My feet were freezing, and my fingertip-less gloves left my fingertips feeling pretty frozen too.

Suffering for my art...yeah, that's what it was!

If you look closely you can see the etched writing on the lower corner of the side window glass.
Gives some perspective on how tiny these flakes really were. 

It was about 23 degrees about then. How there could have been water droplets I have no idea.
I did notice that breathing near the flakes was a bad idea.
They poofed into nothing if hit by the smallest breath.

Eventually a few flakes hit the windows and stayed frozen long enough for a shot.
Enjoy the next few snowflake shots while immersing your feet in ice water to get the full sensation of being right there with me!

There might of been a few duplicates in those last photos.
Picasa was acting up and I tried to fix the duplicates, then gave up.
Forgive both me and Picasa, OK?

I did finally go snowshoeing, just to keep myself honest with myself.
The snow was piling down from the sky and I got such a kick out of coming across a woman walking about ten dogs all by herself on the trail.

We had a nice chat about how beautiful the area was right now.
She explained that the dogs were not all hers; she was a professional dog walker.
Lucky dogs!

I had left for Mill Creek around three and got home (after a quick trip to the grocery store) around six.
Our neighbor's tree lights were so charming glowing beneath the snow.
A quick bowl of split pea soup that my dil had made and shared, some potato chips and yogurt for dinner and I was out the door again, still in my powder suit and snow boots.
I hadn't even taken off my ski cap to eat!
Temple Square was calling to me!

Downtown in snowfall....bright colorful lights on the streets.

Then there is REALLY bright lights in the Square itself.

Can't remember having so much snow on the valley floor.
Some of the Temple Square lighting designs were buried beneath the snow!

The place was packed.
Babies were bundled up tight with just little noses and wide eyes and pacifiers showing.

Across from the Square is the City Creek shopping center with a covered bridge over the street.

I've taken a carriage tour here before.
It is pretty hairy as the tour goes smack dab through the middle of downtown traffic.

Walking the Square itself is plenty good enough fun.

The shepherds watching the flocks were coming pretty darn close to losing sight of their sheep due to snow cover!

Various languages and cultural images shine from  the glowing bags that line the walkways.

Brrrr...I mean baaa.....

One area has a nativity scene and voice over loud speaker telling the story and playing carols sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Very stirring actually.

The scene's life sized characters, including camel riding wise men, seemed very real.

The statue honoring the Hand Cart Mormon pioneers was almost painfully realistic.
I have read the diaries of the Mormons who trekked from the East coast using just handcarts and were caught in horrible snowstorms on the way.

Temple Square at Christmas is a must see.

Downtown Salt Lake is a must see too.
One street has the University of Utah symbol glowing repeatedly the entire street.

The City-County Building holidays up by switching the lighting up top to red and green.

With the addition of falling snow and low clouds reflecting back all the lights, the building looks quite festive.

The blue trees on the second level make the whole building look both Christmas-y and patriotic at the same time.

I was back home by eight and so ended my Third Day of Christmas adventures.