17 March 2009


Actually this post should be called snow crystal images because the images here are of single snow crystals. Most of the crystals shown here are between 0.04 and 0.08 inches. That means they would easily fit in this O. Snowflakes, at least the puffy balls of snow that fall from the sky are generally a conglomeration of many snow crystals that have collided and stuck together on their way down from the clouds. Contrary to popular belief, snow crystals are not frozen drops of water, that is what we call sleet. Sleet looks exactly like what a frozen drop of water should look like, a small ball of ice.  Snow crystals are formed when water vapor up in the clouds condenses, usually on a microscopic particle of dust one water molecule at a time. The six-sided symmetry we see is due to the way each individual molecule of water vapor (water molecules are six-sided) attaches itself to the growing crystal.

While there are many different types of snow crystals I think the most beautiful to photograph are plates (both sectored and stellar) and stellar dendrites. If you look in the center of many snowflakes you will see it began as a hexagonal plate. Then as it grew one molecule at a time, the six corners of these plates stick out from the main crystal more and begin to gather more water vapor. Once this happens, dendritic arms start to grow which, of course, stick out more and gather more water vapor, and you get the amazing shapes and forms seen in the images below. As these crystals travel through the clouds they go through areas in the clouds with different temperatures and humidity levels these changes in temperature and humidity also affect the way the crystals grow. Because no two flakes follow the same path through a cloud, no two flakes grow exactly the same. This is why no two snowflakes are exactly the same.

Snow Crystals

I have just returned from a great trip to Costa Rica (one of my new favorite places) I shot nearly 7,000 images it will take me some time to get through them. I will try to get some up in my next post.