Winter is just right around the corner and what better way to welcome the crisp, cold season with some amazing macro snowflake photography!
Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov has been showcasing nature’s little wonders with his series of breathtaking snowflake photos. Looking at his images, it is easy to believe that his images were taken with a modern DSLR and dedicated macro lens, but in reality, Alexey shot his images with a simple Canon a650 point-and-shoot and an old Helios 44M-5 lens mounted on reverse.
The Reverse Lens Technique
Did I just said mount the lens in reverse? Yes I did.
Believe it or not, you can practically make any regular lens into a macro lens simply by reversing the lens. Of course, this is lenses with an aperture ring is preferable because you can still control the aperture manually. There are simple adapters that lets you do just that and they are very cheap. Just check the front thread sizes of your lenses (ie. 58mm thread reverse adapter for Canon mount and 52mm thread reverse adapter for Nikon mount).
You can learn more about this technique in our Introduction to High Magnification Insect Photography.
As Alexey described in his blog, the Canon a650’s lens is not detachable. So rather than buying a DSLR, Alexey mounted the reverse lens and the camera unto a wooden board and wrapped the entire lens setup in a black plastic bag in order to prevent outside light leakage and outside elements.
Alexey then mounted three extension tubes to the front of this whole hybrid lens in order to provide enough focusing distance between the front of the lens and the snowflake.
Finally, a snowflake is placed on a flat piece of glass and the camera is placed over the subject.
Shooting Multiple Images to Average Out the Noise
One thing that is noticeable about Alexey’s images is that they are very clean for a point-and-shoot camera. The reason behind this is because Alexey shot 7-8 identical images for each snowflake and layered them on top of each other in Photoshop in order to average out the noise and noise reduction. Each image taken will have random patterns of noise that will change from image-to-image. This technique averages out the random variations of noise and leaves behind the actual snowflake itself. When done right, this is actually far better than denoising programs and plugins out in the market!
Very cool, right!?
You can read more about it in Alexey’s article on averaging identical shots in order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.
Alexey’s Snowflake Images
If you want to learn the rest of Alexey’s workflow, you can read the rest of his article on how to shoot macro snowflake photography.
Here are some more examples of his stunning images. You can see more on his Flickr page.
Additionally, you can follow Alexey on Google+.