Saturday, January 12, 2013

60mm is MMmmmmm...mmmm....good!

So it is still snowing and Bernie is still sick with the flu.
I am washing my hands and praying like crazy I won't catch it from him.
Thankfully our next door neighbor took his snow blower to our driveway about five minutes before I suited up to tackle it this morning.

After yesterday's post about needle snowflakes, I had been checking outside to see the snowflakes and only about an hour ago did the flakes take on any interesting shapes.
Using the chart...this would be called a Stellar Plate.
The dotted lines around the flake is the frozen moisture residue from when I wiped down the magnifying camera lens before putting it outside to capture flakes.
What a difference my new 60mm lens makes in snowflake photography.

From the snowflake identification website:
Stellar Plates
These common snowflakes are thin, plate-like crystals with six broad arms that form a star-like shape. Their faces are often decorated with amazingly elaborate and symmetrical markings.
Plate-like snowflakes form when the temperature is near -2 C (28 F) or near -15 C (5 F), as dictated by the snow crystal morphology diagram.

Sectored Plates
Stellar plates often show distinctive ridges that point to the corners between adjacent prism facets. When these ridges are especially prominent, the crystals are called sectored plates.
The simplest sectored plates are hexagonal crystals that are divided into six equal pieces, like the slices of a hexagonal pie. More complex specimens show prominent ridges on broad, flat branches.

It has branches but no side branches on the branches.

This one has the side branches on its branches so it is a simple stellar dendrite.

Stellar Dendrites
Dendritic means "tree-like", so stellar dendrites are plate-like snow crystals that have branches and sidebranches. These are fairly large crystals, typically 2-4 mm in diameter, that are easily seen with the naked eye.
Stellar dendrites are clearly the most popular snow crystal type, seen in holiday decorations everywhere. You can see these crystals for yourself quite well with just a simple magnifier. (See Snowflake Watching for more about observing snowflakes.)

This, of course, is a Snoopervising Faithful Orange Cat keeping me company as I work.
I had set the lens outside to gather snowflakes; when I went to go check on the flakes moments later I found him sitting with his fluffy belly directly over the lens.
He tries to help, he really does.

I can see a plate or two here too. 
Having a heart beat while focusing makes the different between blur and clear.
My slow heart beat works in my favor; the beats are stronger as they pump out more blood and I get a stronger shake because of that fact.
Eventually I will tripod to elimate this issue.
Just not today.

Thinking this one is a Sectored Plate?
Sectored Plates
Stellar plates often show distinctive ridges that point to the corners between adjacent prism facets. When these ridges are especially prominent, the crystals are called sectored plates.
The simplest sectored plates are hexagonal crystals that are divided into six equal pieces, like the slices of a hexagonal pie. More complex specimens show prominent ridges on broad, flat branches.

It amazes me that a shift in temperature by a degree or two will create completely different snowflake structures.
I am also glad that it works like that.
Makes having snowfall so much more interesting.

The weathervane across the street...will this storm eventually bury the letters?
It is getting close.
All for now...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Needle Work

24 inches of snow has fallen in the past 24 hours.
Winter wonderland...
as in:
 I wonder how many I times I  am going to have to shovel the driveway before this storm ends?


I know we keep saying we don't have room in the garage for a snow blower but seriously at this point I am ready to give up my second refrigerator out there to make room.

Usually shoveling isn't that big of a deal for us.
It is good exercise, and usually Bernie can handle the job by himself.
Sometimes I pitch in and sometimes our neighbors who are out blowing their own driveways will wheel their blowers over and do the job for us.
This storm...Bernie is really sick with the flu that is going around.
He is fevered,  shaking with cold, then burning up and aches all over all the time.
No fun, and not fair... especially since his knee was really almost better.
(The above picture with the car passing by gives you an idea of just how much snow I have been shoveling. Tate sits in the window carefully snoopervising my snow relocating efforts)

The storm continues and the birds are not even trying to feed yet.
Not that they could if they wanted too.

I am getting a big kick out of our lamp post.
Doesn't it look like the post is wearing a white version of the hat that the guards at Buckingham Palace wear?

I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to do some more snowflake photography.
For now there is a lot of grauple, which is a tiny fuzzy ball form of snow, and there is enough wind is blowing that any flake designs are shattering upon landing.
The one above survived its landing somehow.

If you look closely, it is the flake directly below the clump on the edge of the lens, not quite dead center in the photo.  There is a tiny peach colored dot at the tip of the flake.

Given that the cool stellar dendrite snowflake forms are scarce right now I decided to see what I could do about photographing snow needle flakes.
Look closely at this photo and you will see a few tiny lines mixed in with the shattered flakes.

Here's another shot...much closer up.

I had noticed the needle shapes before but frankly didn't find them all that interesting.
Then I read up on them at THIS site:

Needles are slender, columnar ice crystals that grow when the temperature is around -5 C (23 F). On your sleeve these snowflakes look like small bits of white hair.
One of the amazing things about snow crystals is that their growth changes from thin, flat plates to long, slender needles when the temperature changes by just a few degrees. Why this happens remains something of a scientific mystery.

So this rather simple looking snowflake form is a scientific mystery!
(The mini snowball looking things are grauple btw.)

They do seem to come as twinned form quite frequently.
The needles are rarely more than 1/3 of an inch long, and usually much shorter than that.
They are about as thick as most adults hair.

It was warmer than the article's suggested 23 degrees when I took these photos, it was closer to 28 degrees out on my deck actually.

They lack a fancy shape, but I have to wonder what they do by being their shape?

Like the old expression: God don't make no junk.
I believe He has a reason for everything He creates.
Interesting that science, (which has broken down other snowflake shape development to the degree that they can grow them in labs) can not figure how these seemingly simple structures come into being.
(Note the dangling twin needle shape on the left?) 

I have obtained a 60mm camera lens now, (Thanks Mom and Dad for the Christmas money!)
I got it this afternoon and haven't had an opportunity to attempt to photograph needles with the better lens yet.

Will I be able to see the air bubble inside the needles with the new lens?

Can't wait to find out.
(The link to the snow web page has me feeling like a bird watcher; I am eager to attempt to photograph all 40 something categorized snow flake forms.
An interesting winter project for me to tackle I hope.
In between shoveling the driveway snow that is!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blooper Reel: Just call me Sparkle Plenty!

You might recall a very long post I did back in December about how I was attending many free holiday events in our area.  I managed to get in a two free concerts, a free Diwali celebration that included a free Indian dinner, and a few other events as well.

What I didn't report on was this event:

Now doesn't that sound like something right up my alley?

A free showing of a
photographer's photos of the Wasatch mountains in four seasons at Our
Lady of Snows Catholic Church.

I showed the little article to Bernie, taped the cut out bit into my daily notebook and it was a SLAP (what the "kids" text to each other as short hand for Sounds Like A  Plan.) 

We hadn't been to any gallery show opening in a year or more; art show openings have often made a great date night outing for us; a chance for me to dress up just a tiny bit, often donning a more whimsical hat that I usually dare to wear, and usually there is wine and cheese and other tidbits offered to the attendees who tend to wind up chatting and enjoying the art and spontaneous conversations.

So when Monday Dec. 2nd rolled around, I gussied up just a bit for the show.

I  put on hat with a rhinestone feather that had years ago belonged to my "Belle of Memphis" grandmother....

(It is a lovely warm hat and it was deeply below freezing where the show was to be held...)
 and I wore sparkly knit sweater and long beads, in art-show arty

We drove up into mountains to the church. As we drove by it we could
see a wall sized projection of a photo inside the front window so we
were sure this was the right place.

Inside was a sculpture of Our Lady of the Snows Mary (thankfully NOT
on skies...) and about 14 young adults in typical grubby cold weather
gear seated in folding chairs in rows.

As we walked in the photographer running the laptop projection
welcomed us and asked us what we did.


Bernie quickly said he was an engineer and that I supported him (har!)
and we sat down.

The photo show continued; each was related to avalanches.  Great
photos of avalanches billowing down mountainsides, snow ridges about
to fail, and post avalanche destruction scenes.

"Not great pictures artistically but very interesting" I thought to myself.

The photographer then began to discuss pictures of beacons that skiers
wear, rescue dogs, and how in worse case situations lines of people walk
shoulder to shoulder with probing sticks to recover bodies.
Kind of weird for a photographic art show but, again, interesting.

He showed 68 photos and after the first group was finished I figured
he would move on to the next "season" in the Wasatch mountains; wondering to myself if he would show spring flowers or autumn leaves.

Instead he handed out a hand book and instructed everyone to turn in a
form to the ski resort office to show that we had attended the ski
patrol avalanche training class.


Oops! We had the right place but the wrong Monday night! No wonder
the guy asked what we did...and why everyone was looking at two semi
dressed up almost 60 year olds showing up for avalanche training!

Good grief. 
Bernie had to be in Puerto Rico the following week and I didn't feel comfortable driving up into the mountains in the dark during a snowstorm so I never did get to attend this show.
Maybe our local bookstore will carry the book?
And maybe I will learn how to pay closer attention to numbers that are related to event dates in the future too?