How to Turn Boiling Water into Snow

This is one of my favorite tricks that you can do in the winter. Each season, there are typically only a few days when this is possible. So if the conditions are right, make sure to take advantage of it! Here’s how to turn boiling water into snow (and how to photograph it):

boiling water trick

1. It has to be cold enough outside.

I’ve found that -20°F or colder is the ideal temperature.

2. You have to use boiling water.

Not just hot – boiling! We usually fill up six or seven thermoses/water bottles with boiling water and then put them in a cooler to keep them as hot as possible. Insulated, stainless steel water bottles (like Hydroflasks) work great! Anywhere from 24 oz. to 40 oz. bottles are perfect for making a big arc like the one you see above.

3. Plan for sunrise

We’ve always done this at sunrise because that’s usually the coldest part of the day. I like to position myself so that the camera is shooting into the sun. So when I throw the water, it lights up from behind.

4. my camera settings

Here are the settings for one of my photos: f/13, 1/320, and ISO 640.

f/13 will give you that starburst effect with the sun. High f-stops create that look. I actually wrote an entire blog post about this topic and tips on how to shoot a starburst photo.

Since my f-stop was so high, I needed to bring more light into the camera. To do this, I set my shutter speed at 1/320 which brightened the photo. It was also a fast enough shutter speed so that my motion wasn’t blurred.

Finally, I went with an ISO of 640 which brightened up the photo even more.

5. choosing the right drive mode

Make sure your camera is in continuous shooting drive mode. This means that as long as you’re pressing the shutter button, the camera will continue shooting until you let go. This will allow you to capture every frame from when you start throwing the water until you stop.

6. be very careful

You are throwing boiling water over your head, after all! I’d suggest doing a test run by throwing one of your thermoses away from you first, instead of over your head. That way, you can practice and confirm that it’s in fact cold enough outside and the boiling water isn’t going to be falling on top of you.

I’d still recommend covering up as best you can, especially by wearing gloves and a hat (which I’m sure you’ll have on anyway since it’s winter).

7. move fast and Take care of your camera afterwards

I would recommend doing this trick as quickly as possible so that your camera (and you!) aren’t battling the elements for too long. When we’re doing this, I’m running between takes, grabbing the next thermos to throw, and moving as quickly and safely as possible. Typically, we’re outside for just a few minutes.

Once you’re inside, keep your camera in your camera bag so that it warms up slowly. This helps prevent any condensation from forming inside of it.

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