Thread: Capturing sparkles in ice
12-08-2013, 08:42 AM #1
Capturing sparkles in ice
I've accepted a challenge from a friend to try to photograph "Nature's bling." One of the things I'm having the most difficulty with is capturing the "sparkle" on things like dew or ice.
We have a lot of ice on the trees right now, and I took the picture below in hopes of trying to capture the sparkle. It was late in the day, the sun was nearly set, the trees were backlit, the sky was all gold, and the light of the setting sun made the ice globs on the tree branches sparkle. This was a practice photo, so I wasn't worrying much about composition. My entire goal this time was to capture the sparkle. It just didn't turn out the way I hoped, and I didn't capture what I wanted to capture. This isn't the first time I've failed to do this. I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong and why none of my "sparkle" photos seem to work. This photo turned out the best of the ones I've tried, so I chose this one to share for critique.
Here's the data on the photo: Nikon D90, AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5 lens, aperture mode, ISO 640, 18mm focal length, f/20, 1/250, taken today about 5 minutes before sunset when the light was just perfect on the ice. The lens a "sky filter" on it to protect it, in case that makes a difference. Also, it was damn cold...a windchill of -25 degrees, in case THAT makes a difference. (Other than, perhaps, the photographer forgetting some key thing in order to get the photo before frostbite set into her fingertips...)
Here's the photo. I was so disappointed. I'm doing pretty well on at learning most things about photography, but this still eludes me. The branches, especially the largest tree on the left and the one next to it, looked like someone had dipped them in gold. How can I capture that? Better technique, or better equipment?
Thanks for any advice you have to help me get better at this so I won't be as disappointed next time!
12-08-2013, 08:47 AM #2
One additional comment...
I have several other photos of ice sparkle that didn't work the way I hoped, either, taken in brighter light. If seeing a sampling of those would help solve my issue, I can post them. The rules said I could only post one. I've had a disappointing couple of days trying to do this...
12-08-2013, 10:03 AM #3dPS Forum Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2012
It's hard to say without having actually been there are the scene to see how it was. The best advice I can give is to remember that light is everything. You have to choose a time when the light is highlighting what you want to show - ie when it is really shining off the dew or ice and this might happen only for a brief moment. You might also consider composing to make this the subject of your image. In the one above it is all about the trees. Macros and close ups might be the way forward...?
12-08-2013, 10:56 PM #4
One thing to remember is that those sparkles are continuously changing from second to second. Our eyes see everything as a blur of sparkles but the camera only captures the sparkles that exist at the moment the shutter is pushed. The same effect can be seen when trying to photograph water and capturing the glints of the sun. You end up only getting about 10% of what you actually saw with your eyes.
In the case of the trees, I might suggest trying a longer exposure. Get a tripod and a solid neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed and capture a longer time frame. It sometimes works but not always. Plus, if it's windy, the trees will be blurry from movement so you have that to contend with.
Hope that helps some!
BTW, you aren't too far from me! We are in SE Minnesota and visit the North Shore several times a year. Usually end up in Tofte or Grand Marais as our "base camp". Photographed a LOT of that area and love every minute! Check out the landscape portion of our website below and see if you recognize anything.
12-12-2013, 01:52 AM #5
Thanks for the help, everyone. At least I've got a few months of winter left. To my fellow MN resident...my sister lives on a farm outside Pine Island, so I'm familiar with several of your landscapes there, too.
12-12-2013, 05:28 PM #6
12-12-2013, 07:42 PM #7
From your description, I think(?) I envision something a little different. I'm thinking about how a viewer sees an image. We go to the points of greatest contrast first (light subject with dark surroundings, or vice versa). Then, we look at what appears to be biggest or closest in the image. In your image above, the half-dozen or so trees are roughly at the same distance and scale. Yeah, there are different sized trees, but they're all in context of each other. As is, it looks like a picture of trees and that the group of trees are the story. But that's not what you want. You're not telling a story of a group of trees, you're looking to share the droplets on the branches of the trees.
Could you find a smaller tree that's close by, where the droplets of ice are big in the frame? One where the droplets are within arms reach of you? Then compose the picture such that they're big. Even better, you could have the other, bigger trees still in the background as a repeating pattern that suggests that this bling goes on forever.
On the technical side, I'm thinking that you'd want a small aperture and short lens to put a starburst on the specular light coming through the droplet(s). Of course, using a tripod would be essential.
I'm not sure if this is even remotely close to what you're looking for, or if any of this is helpful...Dave.
12-12-2013, 10:52 PM #8Used to be shruggy63
- Join Date
- Mar 2012
- Manchester, England
I agree with Dave in that getting closer would be helpful. Have you tried using your flash? After sunrise when there's a little thaw water on a more confined subject, surely hitting it with the flash would make some sparkles... Good Luck!