Case Study: Macro Snowflake Photos
Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov tapes a $50 lens to his cameras and takes the most stunning macro snowflakes photos I have ever seen. Check out his work and learn the technique used to get such amazing result.
This is postprocessed snowflakes, cropped from full 12mp shots, mix from 2009-2013 years. Usually i add to them artifical colors, because original shots almost monochromatic and looks not appealing. Some snowflakes captured in standard macro mode, others with Helios 44 add-on:
I capture snowflakes at open balcony of my house, mostly on glass surface, lighted by LED flashlight from opposite side of glass, and sometimes in natural light, using dark woolen fabrics as background.
On a floor of a balcony I put the turned stool (legs up), on them - a glass plate. Previously, i shoot using Canon A650's standard macro mode. For this, from a small plastic bottle I cut central cylindrical part in the form of a tube (height 5.5 cm). This height I picked up so that the lens of the camera, pushed in a tube, will be at distance 1 centimeter from the bottom (this is minimum focusing distance of Canon A650 in macro mode). I just put this cylinder with the camera's lens within it over the chosen snowflake, the lens looks vertically down. For steady shots, i shoot in small series with starting delay 1-2 seconds after focusing, taking away my hands off the camera. With free hand i illuminate snowflake with flashlight from under the glass. The flashlight shines through two layers of white plastic bag for more uniform lighting. This is enough for shooting even at night with minimum ISO and short exposure time.
Recently, i built simple macro addon for the camera. I used lens Helios 44M-5 from old USSR SLR camera Zenit (here is short description in wikipedia). At first, i attached these lens at narrow wooden board (around 30 cm long), reversed: a back lens to snowflake, front lens to camera, and drilled in a board an opening for a screw suitable to tripod nest of the camera. Then camera is put on a board so that the lens in the maximum optical zoom mode (6x) touched Helios lens and looked straight into them. I attach the camera by a screw and additionally with metallic bracket, glued to the board, it holds opposite side of camera, so it didn't move anywhere. On Helios's back side (which is front of whole construction) i attached three standard narrow extension rings from Zenit camera (this is needed only in case of shooting at glass surface with backlight). This holds lens at needed focusing distance from the glass with snowflakes (2,5-3 centimeters). Place of connection between internal and external lens i covered with some sort of skirt, maked from black plastic bag: this protects connection point from outer light, snow, ice and waterdrops. All design turned out rather strong and steadily stands vertically with lenses looking down. I simply put it on glass over the chosen snowflake and shoot at maximum optical zoom instead of macro mode. Camera's autofocus works well.
This is assembled construction:
Ready for shooting:
Simple scheme of add-on:
This is an example shots in two modes, standard A650 macro mode and with external lens:
I also wrote separate article about averaging identical shots. I used this technique for all recent snowflakes.