Not quite your classic snowflake, but these simple branched crystals are always appealing to me. Growing slowly and evenly, these branch branches stand out in a crowd. View large!
Most of the detail on this snowflake is on the back side, facing away from the camera. You can see the surface texture, but you’re seeing it through the snowflake so they appear softer and present a “cleaner” appearance for this type of snowflake. While one side always has the surface features, the other side of the same crystal is mostly smooth, aside from rounded lines and circles.
These circles are created by the outer edge of the snowflake growing back towards the center, thickening up the structure of the snowflake. As this growth ripples backward, the branches become stronger. I’ve always found this kind of growth fascinating, it was tricky for me to grasp initially. Here’s some pages from Sky Crystals that should help understand what you’re seeing: http://skycrystals.ca/pages/circles-in-the-snow.jpg
In the very center we have a tiny little gem, a remnant of two plates connected by a center column. One plate grew to be the entire snowflake, while the other was starved of water vapour and stayed small. While I see this sort of thing often, it’s always beautiful. This brings up an important question, however: what size of a snowflake do you photograph, and how do you flip it over?
I usually take a test image of the snowflake with focus running through the center, and I use this to evaluate whether or not I’ve got the right side. If this specimen was shot from the other side, for example, it would appear overly cluttered and the center gem would be invisible. If you need to flip a snowflake over, I usually use a small artist’s paintbrush: a flat brush with bristles cut on an angle. This gives very good precision for cleaning and adjusting a snowflake, and while some of them do break, gentle motions get the snowflake where it needs to be.
The background is a black mitten that is littered with other snowflakes, so this paintbrush serves double duty. When I have snowflake in the perfect position, I lay the brush down on the mitten with the end pointed towards the snowflake. Through the viewfinder I no longer have to find the snowflake I’m looking for in the chaos, I just need to find the brush and follow it to the target.
If you’d like to know more about the science of snowflakes with an exhaustive and comprehensive tutorial on how to photograph and edit these little gems, check out my book Sky Crystals:
Other things you might be interested in:
2018 Ice Crystals Coin from the Royal Canadian Mint featuring my snowflakes: http://www.mint.ca/store/coins/coin-prod3040427
“The Snowflake” print, taking 2500 hours to create: http://skycrystals.ca/product/poster-proof/
Photo Geek Weekly, my new podcast: http://www.photogeekweekly.com/