Experiments in the cold

Recent days have been the coldest here this winter. This is no surprise, as the second half of January often is the coldest period in the arctic. The sun has returned, but it takes time before this has an effect on the temperature.

Due to the cold (-28°C today) I decided to try something which I have seen before, but never done myself. Maybe you have heard of the effect when you throw boiling water up in the air in extreme cold. It turns instantly to snow. To do this requires no special skills besides having boiling water. The next step is to photograph this, which requires some equipment and good timing.

The setup in my garden was like this: My camera on a tripod, a flash mounted on a softbox with a wireless trigger and my girl friend pressing the shutter button at the right moment.

Fufjilm X-T3 ISO 400 23mm f/1.4 1/2000 sec.

Fufjilm X-T3 ISO 400 23mm f/1.4 1/2000 sec.

You can of course do this without the flash, but in this case it was simply not enough light.

So how do you do this? As long as it is cold enough and you have access to boiling water nearby, I recommend the following:

  • Mount your camera on a tripod. While the shutter speed is so short that you could do this handheld, it just makes it a bit easier if the camera is pointed to the right place beforehand

  • Ask a friend to help you. You could use a remote trigger, but coordinating the trigger while at the same time handling the water will complicate things

  • If there is not enough light, use a flash. It also helps separate your subject from the background. I choose the power of the flash manually, as it gives me more control over the outcome.

  • Short shutter speed: In this case it was 1/2000 sec to freeze the action. In combination with a flash you need a flash that supports HSS - High-Speed sync.

  • Aperture: I chose f/ 1.4 to capture more light. You don’t need such a large aperture, should you have not enough light you can try a higer ISO value.

  • ISO: As low as possible to achieve a fast enough shutter speed.

And most important: Have fun experimenting!