Not the Worst Winter Ever

December 29th, 2009
Snowflake Photo

The winter of 2009/10 is still quite young, and no one knows what it holds. But at this early date there is one thing I can say for sure - when it comes to snow crystal photos, it won't be the worst winter ever. 

I don't feel like digging into my records to figure out which season exactly was the worst. I first started photographing snow crystals in 1997, and the first few years I worked on it were a real challenge - especially shooting very unforgiving color slide film. But there was one year when, even with digital cameras and a refined and predictable technique, I only managed two good shots. It's just a question of what nature tosses your way, and if you are there to receive it. 

That is part of the deal with nature photography. You take what the earth gives you. Sometimes it is generous; often not. And when not, you just get up and go back out, faithful that things will be different. Whether it's hunting for snow crystals, visiting a pine barrens, hoping to find wildflowers or dragonflies - sometimes nature is bountiful, sometimes not. And often you come home with nothing to show for the effort. 

Some days I wish that it all could be easy. Maybe I could fly to places where the subjects I want to photograph are right there waiting. I'm sure dragonflies are on the wing somewhere. Snow crystals fall in perfection someplace else. Sometimes I feel that I lack dedication, and if I was really serious I would not just shoot photos in my little corner of the world, but rather would go where the subjects are and really produce. It could be easy... and rewarding. 

But if I have learned anything from observing nature, it is that the easy is the most unnatural. And if I have learned anything from art, it is that the product is a distraction and it is the process that is the most compelling. So while bleak winter days can be unrewarding;  while a whole winter can pass and yield just two snow crystal photos;  while there are days I return empty handed, again; and nights dark with doubt - ultimately it is part of the dance, part of the process, part of creation. No matter what, it's a blessing and not to be denied just because there is  nothing to show for it. 

Yeah - I know - try explaining that to folks who say "But what did you do today?" So I am  happy to record in my journal - "2009/10 is not the worst winter ever wrt snow crystals." 

And so here we go - two more shots from Sunday night, embedded in this post. As always - click on the image for a larger file.

The session was not quite as productive as I had hoped, but there is at least another shot in the works and what the heck - did I mention that this is not the worst year ever when it comes to snow crystals?

Snowflake Photo
- Mark


New Review On Bookends, a Booklist Blog

December 29th, 2009

Yesterday, a new review of The Story of Snow appeared on  Bookends, a Booklist blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

 “They take a rather technical subject and make it “crystal” clear for really young readers and still retain a tangible sense of wonder. This is a beautiful book and a fascinating book.”

 You can read the whole thing here:

Snow Crystals!

December 27th, 2009

About the time I was typing “It’s snowing like mad” last night, it stopped snowing.

A feeble mid winter sun greeted us early this morning, and then the clouds rolled in and brought an exceedingly light snow. Come evening, barely half an inch of fresh snow lay on the sidewalks and the car windshields. I had checked the snow throughout the day only to find it to be tiny, crunched-up bits of dusty ice. But stepping outside this evening to grab a log for the fireplace, I was surprised to see that the dust had given way to some very nice snow crystals.

I fired up the camera and for brief intervals in the evening, the dust gave way to crystals, which in turn gave way to dust again. Here’s the first shot of the evening:

Snow Crystal Photo

That one actually looks like two crystals sandwiched together. (As always - click on the image for a larger file.)

Here’s another shot from tonight – the little specks all around it are the ‘dust’ I as referring to early – tiny bits of eroded snow crystals. They make the main subject look quite large – but it was well under 1/16th of an inch in size. More shots will be coming in the next few days.

Snow Crystal Photo
- Mark

Winston - Salem Journal and Chicago Tribune Reviews

December 27th, 2009

Today’s Winston-Salem Journal has a nice article about books to read on snowy days – and The Story of Snow is one of them.  You can read the whole review, Snow Days Call For Snowy Pages here –

Last week the Chicago Tribune‘s print edition featured a review of winter books for young readers by Mary Harris Russell. Christmas, Snowflake Stories Are Delightful featured only 3 books – The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, What’s Coming for Christmas by Kate Banks and  The Story of Snow by yours truly.

Sorry – I don’t have a weblink for this review.

It’s snowing like mad here in Michigan. The Christmas storm of 2009 is moving along to the east, and we are falling into the northerly winds. For now it is just a dusty busted up snow with no good snow crystals so far. Once the storm passes and the gentle lake effect snow kicks in, things may get better…at least from the perspective of someone looking for snow crystals to photograph!  Best wishes to everyone who is travelling through this storm during this holiday season.

In the meantime – here’s a shot from last March:

Snow Crystal

 - Mark

Two Faces of Water

December 19th, 2009

Around midnight, a gentle snow began to fall. It continues to come down, but the air temperature is still hovering right at the freezing point. Throughout the night I’d wake up and peek out the window to see snow falling onto wet streets – it was just a bit too warm for the snow crystals to not melt when they hit the pavement.

Come morning, the roads were slushy and slick, but the temperature remained stubbornly warm.

You never know till you try, so I caught a few falling flakes to see if I could get their photos. They began to melt the moment they landed on the glass plate, and by the time they were positioned beneath the camera lens, they were well-nigh gone.

One shot of one departing crystal, just before it became a drop of water (click on the picture for a larger image):

Here are two faces of water - crystal and liquid forms - together in the same place, briefly. These are not the only two forms of water, of course, but it's interesting to see them juxtaposed like this.

- Mark

First Snow Crystal Photo of 2009/10

December 19th, 2009

Last week’s storm brought several inches of hard driving, wet snow to Kalamazoo. But after the blizzard passed temperatures grew more mild, and soon patches of grass began to emerge from the melting snow cover.

A slight dusting of lake effect snow a couple of days ago is all we’ve seen of the white stuff since then. I spent a few disappointing hours out in the light snow, catching only highly irregular crystals and the broken arms of dendrites.

Here’s the one and only whole crystal I managed to photograph – it’s a start!

Snow Crystal Photo
- Mark

Outstanding Science Trade Book

December 13th, 2009

Great news!

The Story of Snow has been named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 by the National Science Teacher's Association and Children's Book Council!

- Mark

Front page News

December 11th, 2009

The Kalamazoo Gazette ran a front page article about The Story of Snow on Wednesday, December 9.

Click here to check it out!

The weather was quite accomodating as a blizzard moved into west Michigan around the same time.

- Mark