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The Snowflake | by Don Komarechka
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The Snowflake

Since I have many new followers now compared to when I originally published this image, it warrants repeating: 2500 hours across 5 years went into this. All of these snowflakes are measured and placed to scale!


After December 25th, my Snowflake-a-Day series switches to every-other-day releases so I have time to catch up and explore new subjects and projects through the winter months… but I’ll often post something on the off days as well, such as this image, also available as a poster print:


This image contains over 400 snowflakes. At the time it was produced, this was every single complete snowflake photograph I had taken, from the tiniest plates and columns to the most giant specimens imaginable. People don’t often realize the size difference between the snowflake images I post, some as small as 0.3mm and others peaking at 11mm in diameter… this print tells the true relationship in size.


I had the idea to put this together when I discovered that the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens records it’s magnification factor in a special area of metadata called “maker notes”, where proprietary information is stored if there is no standard exif field for it. It records down to a single decimal point, helpful in establishing the size of a subject. If I know the number of pixels across the sensor horizontally (A), the physical size of the sensor horizontally (B), and the magnification factor (C), then I do a quick bit of algebra:

A / (B / C) = number of pixels/mm

And then I can measure each snowflake after the images have already been taken. There are a few caveats here, as I often use extension tubes or additional optics to get even closer… and there are clues to those usages. If the image has a vignette, extension tubes are in use which means I add 1 to the magnification factor. If the images was shot at F/2.8, I use this as my own identifier that I have included the Canon Lifesize Converter EF into the mix which doubles the magnification.


Measuring 400 snowflakes is probably the most boring thing I have ever done in my professional career. Normally editing an image is muscle memory and I can binge watch Netflix in the background (currently watching Designated Survivor, dialogue-driven shows are best!), but with algebra at play it needed more of my attention.


The full resolution file is roughly 1.2 gigapixels. I have printed it as big as 44” x 66”, but a larger 140” tall version will be installed in an upcoming gallery exhibition at the Simcoe County Museum at the end of January. That massive print will be 300dpi so you can nose up to it and see all the detail – very much looking forward to it being on display!

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Uploaded on December 26, 2018