Winter typically equates to freezing temperatures, layers of clothes, and snow — lots of snow. Aside from snowball fights, snowmen, and snow angels, the white cold stuff is tedious to shovel out of the way and blocks you from easily moving around.
But if you take a closer look, at a microscopic level each individual snowflake is a work of natural art.
That’s why Nathan Myhrvold, a former CTO at Microsoft and the founder of Modernist Cuisine, an innovation food lab, decided to get up close and personal with snowflakes. Building a specific camera and lens for the project, Myhrvold’s images are breathtaking.
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Shooting in the refreshing outdoor air of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in Canada, Myhrvold found that the best snowflakes were made between -15 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 to -29 degrees Celcius).
Capturing the image of a fragile millimeter-wide snowflake is no easy task. Add in the fact that these tiny crystal structures melt and sublimate quickly, and that weather conditions and varying temperatures get in the way, Myhrvold had a lot to consider.
To capture snowflakes in their absolute shining detail, Myhrvold used a special camera that resembled a big box on a carbon fiber frame that took him 18 months to design and build. “The highest-resolution snowflake camera in the world,” as Myhrvold claims, uses a Phase One sensor (100MP) that has been adapted to shoot at microscopic levels.
The microscope had to include a cooling stage, so as to not let the snowflakes melt too quickly. The camera has ultra-fast LED lights to keep the temperature at an absolute minimum — its minimum shutter speed is 500 microseconds.
This is a perfect combination of when technology helps us get up close and personal with nature’s works of art.
“Snowflakes are a great example of hidden beauty. Water, an incredibly familiar thing to all of us, is quite unfamiliar when you see it in this different view. The intricate beauty of snowflakes is derived from their crystal structure, which is a direct reflection of the microscopic aspects of the water molecule,” stated Myhrvold.