Another dose of snowflake colour! This vibrant gem gives is a splash of red – a colour very uncommonly found via thin film interference. It almost appears line a little face! View large!
When I first started photographing snowflakes, it took me over a year to encounter a crystal with these mysterious colours inside. Research into the phenomenon lead me to understand it as “thin film interference”, which more commonly creates hues of greens and magentas. If you look at soap film, you can see the patterns that are created through the multiple orders of interference: http://skycrystals.ca/bts/thin-film-interference.jpg - you can see that the colours are dominated by transitions from magenta to green, with some narrow windows for colours like red to emerge at very specific thicknesses. There is one band that goes from orange to magenta in that image that would offer us such an outcome.
This snowflake is similar to the one posted for day No. 5 of this series, with a central hexagonal footprint and small broad branches. This crystal however, started to grow outward in its last moments with what would have become feathery and fern-like features. This happens when a snowflake enters a layer of the clouds with higher humidity or a shift in temperatures that facilitate this faster growth. If this happens right at the tips of a snowflake, you can pretty much guarantee that this was because the crystal fell through a lower level of clouds with these environmental changes on its way to the ground.
You’ll notice that outer tips of this snowflake are slightly rounded. This is caused by sublimation – the snowflake is evaporating from a solid right back into thin air. This process begins as soon as the snowflake leaves the clouds on the way to the ground, so by the time I can photograph it, this sublimation is already underway. If this snowflake had sat around for another 5-10 minutes, the outer branches would be much more rounded, losing most of the features. For this reason, I’m always photographing snowflakes as soon as they fall, often within a minute of them landing on the black mitten that I use as a backdrop.
Yes, the background behind every one of my snowflakes is a home-made black mitten. The colour provides contrast (though this year I will likely experiment with different colours), and the fibers lift the snowflake away from an otherwise complex background, allowing for great subject isolation. Because the snowflake is only making contact with one or two fibers of the mitten, it also functions as an insulator and prevents the snowflake from melting before I can photograph it (if the outside temperatures are near the freezing point).
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/