This is a “classic column”, something that falls from the sky by the billions or more in the right conditions. So small and un-snowflake-like that you might not even notice, but please… view large!
At temperatures between about -5C and -10C, with the right levels of humidity (the Goldilocks zone of not too high, not too low), you get hollow columns forming. This outwardly simple shape is actually quite complex inside, usually in the form of bubbles and surface textures.
It’s easy to see just by looking at this “snowflake” that there are more parallel lines than there are edges to a hexagonal prism. These extra lines come in two forms, the first of which is surface ridges. The outer sides of these crystals do not grow completely flat – the outer edges grow faster than the inner areas, which frame rectangular indentations in the ice. These may echo multiple times on all sides, which adds up to a bit of visual chaos.
What’s more interesting, however, is the bubbles inside the ice. The indentations on the outside and the bubbles trapped inside are caused by the same rule in physics: whatever sticks out the farthest, grows the fastest. The center of any crystal will grow slower than the edges, which are closer to the incoming supply of water vapour. Because the snowflake is growing faster along the prism facets, the basal facets (the ends) allow for larger indentations to form into cavities, which eventually close back up to form bubbles. The largest of which are easy to spot. See the bullet-shaped curved lines in the middle? Bubbles. Any curved line on the interior of this structure is likely belonging to a bubble. There are two main hour-glass shapes plus a few extras in different areas to keep things interesting, complex, and beautiful.
I have the opportunity to photograph hundreds if not thousands of these, but many are so similar that I don’t give them enough attention. The details and uniqueness is more internal, but compare one to another and you’ll never find two the same.
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 Macro Photography Workshop Schedule: http://www.donkom.ca/workshops/
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/