Canada to Try and Capture Single Falling Snowflakes on Camera

Winter is just around the corner, and the Canadian government has plans for a crazy photographic science project to welcome it. The goal of the effort will be to capture images of a single falling snowflake. They plan to use an extremely fast (and presumably expensive) camera that’s capable of capturing detailed footage of the flakes as they float down to Earth.

Seeing the action at thousands of frames per second will allow scientists to clearly see how snowflakes develop during their descent, and will provide information that should lead to better snowfall measuring devices.

Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail writes,

The video images would slow “the movement of snowflakes and eliminate the motion blur making it possible to track air flow, velocity, acceleration as well as flake size and shape change in some instances,” says the notice.

A spokesman for Environment Canada says the snowflake video-recording will take place at the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments, a federal research station in Egbert, Ont., about 80 kilometres north of Toronto.

“Photos of falling snowflakes will be taken at 2,000 to 3,000 frames per second and used to determine their trajectory in windy and turbulent conditions,” Johnson said in an e-mail.

If you live in a snowy area, have some fancy camera gear sitting around, and are looking for a photo project this winter, try your hand at becoming one of the pioneers of “falling snowflake photography”!

Image credit: Snowflake by Gui Seiz

  • jdm8

    In my experience, even shutter set at 1/8000 (at 180 degree shutter, equivalent to one frame at 4000fps) wasn’t enough to stop a snowflake.

  • jesseyardley

    As a Canadian, I can confirm that we are obsessed with snow and ice.

  • Dave Wilson

    jdm8; at 2000 – 3000 fps they’re not taking pictures, they’re taking video. They’re probably using a Phantom Flex camera to do it

  • sum_it

    unless they somehow “follow” it down as it is created and falls from the sky to the ground. That would be one heck of a feat. But def a worthwhile footage to watch!

  • jdm8

    Video doesn’t change the equation because video is a sequence of captured pictures.

  • jdm8

    I don’t know how that would work given eddy currents.

  • Philip Han

    I’ve tried this many times, but nothing ever came out.

    I’ll try it with some very fast flashes at night this year.