Frost Fantasy

A purely experimental image containing home-grown frost, a flashlight, a chuck of shiny blue chalcopyrite, and a Trioplan lens. Read on for how these ingredients interact!

We’ve got cold weather. Technically it’s spring when we should be seeing early flowers starting to bloom, but temps have dropped to -18C / 0.4F for a few nights in a row now with more on the way. Trying to continue my winter experiments as the opportunities allow, I placed an ultrasonic humidifier in an outdoor shed and turned it up to full blast. The result in the morning was magnificent – hoarfrost on the shelves and ceiling of the shed, allowing for plenty of photographic ideas to unfold in my mind.

I did some “ordinary” shots of the frost, and I liked them, but they seemed too static and “documentary”. I then experimented with printing gradients of orange-to-blue to place in the background, but it felt too staged and ultimately uninteresting. That’s when I grabbed one of my recent mineral acquisitions, a beautiful blue hue of Chalcopyrite, and placed it behind the frost, far enough to be out of focus.

Knowing that the crystal facets of the mineral will create coloured specular highlights, I knew it was an opportunity for some intense bokeh. I grabbed my trusty Trioplan 100 lens and set out to work with its “soap bubble” bokeh with a composition around one of the larger arms of frost on the top shelf of the shed. I aimed a (very bright) flashlight at the mineral with light spilling off onto the frost with an appropriate balance, and set to work to try and get something in focus.

Interesting, there is no part of the image that I could classify as truly sharp, even though I’ve seen sharpness from this lens at the widest aperture required for the best bokeh, F/2.8 I think this is due to the nature of the frost surface having so many facets that instantly start creating bokeh-like features as soon as focus falls off, and these overlap the areas that would otherwise be in focus as well. I’ve found a number of simple lenses that also generate sizeable chromatic aberration when shooting snowflakes and frost, and this was one of them. Cleaned it up in the frost, but left it in the bokeh for extra subtle ripples of colour.

Even the tip of the frost is fading out of focus and generating interesting bokeh. I shot this with an initial intent to focus stack a few frames together to increase the depth of field, but I fell in love with the abstract nature of the frost falling into the background. It’s a colourful, happy, abstract image. Maybe too colourful and artsy, but that’s where today’s experimentation brought me.

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