How do I take a picture of the rainbow sparkle when sunlight hits a snowflake?
November 22, 2010 7:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I take a picture of the rainbow sparkle when sunlight hits a snowflake?

I've been trying to do this for ages and all I get is a pinpoint of light on snow. I don't get the nice little rainbow sparkle. This kind of thing happens when it is cold enough (below freezing) when it snows and then remains cold enough the next day but lots and lots of sunshine. The sunshine hits the snowflakes and WOW - rainbow sparkles everywhere.

I have a point & shoot digital camera (Panasonic DMC-FZ7) but it does let me choose zoom, manual, auto, shutter speed, etc. I have some version of Photoshop (not the latest) and have a Photoshop expert downstairs. :) Any tips or ideas on how to get the rainbow sparkle to appear in my photo would be hugely appreciated. Bonus points if my border collies (one is a tricolor) remain normal colors in the photo at the end of the process.

Today we have snow. Tomorrow we expect sunshine. Cold weather all around (24 degrees right now and not expected to warm much tomorrow). So conditions are perfect.
posted by AllieTessKipp to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Husband has informed me that if I mention a pet, I must provide photo...
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:02 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know what AllieTessKipp (gorgeous dogs, btw!) is talking about, but this is as close an example as I could find on flickr to what she is describing.
posted by bearwife at 8:28 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: I know the effect you're going for, although I can't find an example better than bearwife's - it's similar-ish to bokeh, I think. I don't think you can get this with a point and shoot; I think it's a Depth of Field (DOF) thing that would mean a DSLR.

Or, actually, I don't know anything about photography; just that I could probably capture this with shallow DOF on my big camera but not on my point and shoot. Then again, I am photographically incompetent.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:29 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: This example is a *little* sparkly and has wee hints of rainbow, but like DarlingBri says, it's all about depth of field and getting bokeh by focusing on something closer than the bright bits so the rainbow sparkly light goes out of focus. You need a camera with a manual lens...I don't know of a point-and-shoot that lets you play with DOF, but then I'm only the most amateur of photographers.

Once you take a picture like this, you could use Photoshop to pop the colors, vibrancy, and contrast, but I'm not sure Photoshop could do it alone. However, my photoshop mojo is weak and I could be totally off the mark.
posted by smirkette at 8:54 PM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, but this is so helpful!! I can do macro, etc. with this camera so I will try all the settings and see what I get tomorrow. I have done raindrops and bugs before but did not think to try that with the sparkles. I did not even think of the depth of field. Those examples are very close to what I am after. I could not find any examples online myself to show you guys. I hope it really is a sunny day tomorrow. If I get a decent photo, I will post a link so you all can see. :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 9:02 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: This will be tough to do on that camera since you have a small sensor and therefore a large depth of field (to see bokeh, you want a small depth of field), but I looked up your camera, and it's got great controls for a P&S, so you might have a chance.

Here's what you can do-

1. Shoot in aperture priority mode. Turn whatever knob (or push buttons) to make your aperture as large as possible. Not that a large aperture corresponds to a small number. (i.e. f2.8 or f3.3 (depending on zoom range) is the largest aperture on your camera.

2. Zoom in as much as possible, back yourself up as needed.

3. Keep your foreground (which you focus on) as far from the background as possible. This will minimize your depth of field and give you a reasonable chance....
posted by JMOZ at 5:49 AM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you, JMOZ! I will set the camera controls as you suggest. I have a clear sky and dry snow and last night there were sparkles on the snow just from the porch light, so today will be an excellent snow sparkle day. :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:32 AM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: Your camera has a pretty respectable 12X zoom, and you should be able to force a nice shallow DOF by backing up and zooming all the way in on your subject. For example, if you're taking a portrait of someone, go stand 20-30 feet away and zoom all the way in. The image winds up framed just as it would if you were 5 feet away and zoomed all the way out, but the background will be nicely blurred. I'm not sure how well this would work when trying to capture individual snowflakes, but it would be worth experimenting.
posted by usonian at 8:52 AM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: I have tried every piece of advice given, and it has all worked to help me capture what I see! This is great. Now I just need to wait for the right kind of snow/sunlight combination. I did not see any rainbows today but went out with two digital cameras and managed to get the sparkles that I see on the snow into the picture! This is great. I've never been able to do that before. The thing that worked the best was to the put the F stop at 3.2 (the lowest it would let me) and then back up about 10 feet from my sparkles and zoom all the way in.

I did have a fair amount of success using the other digital camera, one that is about the size of a credit card :) and it captured the sparkles too. I used the macro setting and then zoomed in and focused on a piece of grass, and the sparkles all around the grass showed up! Yay!!

I think it must be the slant of the light hitting snowflakes the right way or something, to get the rainbows (from the prism effect?) and by the time I got out there my snow was all kind of little balls instead of real flakes. I notice when it is real flakes that are all the pretty shapes and everything, those give the rainbows. But I'm ready now. I have my method and I'm sure I can get the rainbows when they appear. This is SO COOL!!

You people have made my week! Thanks. I'll be back this evening with a link so you can see.

And, yes, I get this excited about everything... :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: Here they are... The sparkle photos are below the dog photos. :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 10:51 PM on November 23, 2010

(Special snowflake details inside)
posted by theodolite at 10:08 AM on November 24, 2010

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