Photographing snowflakes for A Drop of Water

To catch snowflakes, I held out a piece of black cardboard during a light snowfall. I used a feather to lift the snowflakes off the board. This method came from a 1925 article written by Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer who began photographing snowflakes in 1885.

The snowflake was centered on a glass microscope slide which was taped to a metal frame that could be accurately positioned beneath the camera lens.

Working in an unheated barn kept the snowflakes from melting. However, I had to work quickly because the snowflakes evaporated rapidly in the dry air. The frame was fit into a holder in front of a 32mm micro lens. The camera was an 8X10 with a 120 film back adapter. The light was a strobe bounced off a mirror and through a piece of blue gel to provide background color.

The resulting photo captured the snowflake in astonishing detail! 

Snowflake, ©1997 Walter Wick,
from A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder