Anticipating Snowfall...

January 25th, 2010
The January thaw lasted extra long this year, with temperatures yesterday topping 50F here in Kalamazoo. But in the winter the warm days are usually precede a cold snap - and it's cooling off a bit now. A little snow is actually blowing in the air. Let's hope for snowfall and a chance for photos. Above is one taken three weeks ago, on January 4, 2010, the last opportunity for snow crystal photos hereabouts. - Mark

USA Today's Book Roundup

January 21st, 2010

The Story of Snow is featured in today's USA Today's  Book Roundup - in an article entitled Weather the Winter with a Picture Book. The book is described as "an artistic science lesson about the rise and fall of snow crystals."  The article also features Carl's Snowy Afternoon by Alexandra Day, Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin and Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

You can read the on-line version here:


Last night I spoke at the Grand Rapids Camera Club and provided a demo of how to take snow crystal photo. The turnout was great with well over 100 people in the room, and it was a lot of fun.

The presentation is a bit of a stroll down memory lane and the evolution of the process I use to take snow crystal photos. Of course, it starts at the beginning, with the very first snow crystal shots I managed to make. Here they are - from the winter of 1998/99. It was my second or third try at it, only very small crystals were falling, and on a wing and prayer I snapped a few shots with a high magnification setup, manual flash, and ancient Spotmatic film camera. I was really happy with the results, but it was the end of the season and there were no more opportunities that winter.

It took me a few more years till I was able to duplicate these results, but these photos gave me the inspiration to keep on trying...


Snow Crystal
Snow Crystal
As always - click on the image for a larger file.
- Mark

Reviews in McClatchy Newspapers

January 19th, 2010

On Monday several of the newspapers for the McClatchy company ran a review of The Story of Snow in their "Read It:" column.  An excerpt: "Part science, part art, this beautiful book explains a bit of the chemistry behind winter's cold, white precipitation and also features startlingly detailed and amazing photos of ice crystals."

Here's a link to the review in The Sacramento Bee:

Monday evening also brought a bit of snow to SW Michigan. The crystals were not terribly clean or symmetric, but here are a couple of snaps:

Snow Crystal Photo
Snow Crystal Photo
- Mark

NSTA Recommends: The Story of Snow

January 14th, 2010

A little while ago I mentioned that The Story of Snow was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2010 by the national Science Teachers Association and Children's Book Council. Here's a link to a review that appeared a couple of days ago on the NSTA's website:

To quote reviewer Diana Wiig: "I loved this book! What a wonderful combination of art and science. The explanations are thorough, yet simply stated. The photos/illustrations are exceptional."

We're in the midst of the January thaw here in Michigan, with balmy temperatures up to 40F and yesterday a rare sunny day.No new snow crystal photos for now.  

Here's an old  photo -  taken on film in 2003.

Snow Crystal Photo
- Mark

New Reviews in The Washington Post and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

January 7th, 2010

Here are two new reviews of The Story of Snow:

Washington DC has seen a bit of snow of late, on the heels of that the Washington Post says "The engaging "Story of Snow" -- featuring a succinct text, spare illustrations in gray-and-blue hues and magnified images of gorgeous snow crystals -- explains how snow is made ..." The full review is here:

Down in Texas they see a little less snow, but currently are experiencing a cold snap. Maybe it's a chance to take a close look at some snow crystals. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has this to say about The Story of Snow:  "Part science, part art, this beautiful book explains a bit of the chemistry behind winter’s cold, white precipitation and also features startlingly detailed and amazing photos of ice crystals..." The full review:

A bit of snow is in the forecast for SW Michigan, so I have my fingers crossed.

- Mark

A Few More Lighting Experiments

January 6th, 2010
Snow Crystal

I'm continuing to work on taking snow crystal photos to the next level. It's funny because in past years I tried different approaches to lighting, and none of them worked. So it was a surprise when I picked up a couple of spare C9 holiday lights, dropped them on the flash, and suddenly saw a whole new range of colors in the snow crystals.

I tried similar things in the past, but they just haven't worked. Then I realize that I've been fiddling with the exact placement of the flash beneath the coffee can that holds the glass plate full of snow. Adding the colors, combined with the way the light from the flash was bouncing around inside the coffee can, did the trick. Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result. But sometimes it turns out, you're not really doing the same thing and you may have learned something new, even if you don't know it.

Now, if only the snow would cooperate. Here are three shots from last night. The lake effect bands have been running to the west of Kalamazoo these last few days. Every now and then one drifts our way and brushes against the city.  If I'm lucky I get half an hour, maybe a little longer, before the band of falling snow wanders back. Unfortunately, the snow that has been falling hasn't been the most photogenic.

The crystal at the top of this post landed on its side. I knew that it would exceed the camera's depth of field, but I liked how it looked in the finder. It's easy to imagine the crystal falling through the atmosphere. Below is a  simple crystal that has a 'spur' (as I'll call it) growing perpendicularly out of the center. I see many of these - I'm not sure why they form. The crystal is also spotted with rime.

Snow Crystal

Lastly - here's another double crystal, similar in basic structure to the one I posted on 12/27, but with much greater difference in size between the two crystals that make it up. As always, click on an image for a larger view.

Snow Crystal

 Let's hope for more snow, soon!


Happy New Year 2010

January 1st, 2010
Snow Crystal Photo

A nice lake effect snow blew in early this morning to greet the new year. I spent a little time photographing out in the garage. It's a new year so I tried a couple of new ideas for lighting the snow crystals - this one worked! Not much else to show for the morning's shoot, and by 10 a.m. the snow had stopped and has not yet returned. Hopefully there will be more chances later this weekend. As always, click on the image for a larger view.

-- Mark

Feedback from the Blogosphere

January 1st, 2010

Here are three reviews of The Story of Snow that have appeared in the blogosphere over the last month (plus a few days): 

Abby (the) Librarian describes the books as "beautiful and interesting" and discuses pairing it with Snowflake Bentley when teaching about snow and winter. You can find the full review here:

 The Miss Rumphius Effect - a blog aimed at teachers and educators - reviewed Snowflake Bentley and The Story of Snow both in a common post. The Story of Snow was described as "visually appealing and highly informative." You can see the whole review here:

 A Patchwork Of Books comments that the book "takes every day questions about snow and answers them with a simple, yet informative method." You can read the whole review here:

 There may be more out there but those are ones I ran into. Thanks to everyone who reads the book and takes the time to offer feedback!

 - Mark