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Snowflake 900 | by Don Komarechka
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Snowflake 900

Nine hundred snowflakes. That’s how many I have edited over the years, if you include this one. Quite the milestone! This one has some very cool features to dive into, but before we do that: Monday. I have decided that Monday will be the last day to order a copy of my book Macro Photography: The Universe at Our Feet. It can be ordered here:


Why? With my family and I leaving for Bulgaria with flights book for October 29th, and with so much packing and logistics to worry about, I need to put a “hard stop” to business activities in the final few days before we move overseas. If you want to see hundreds of beautiful macro images and learn how to create the same images with verbose yet understandable details, you need to be quick about ordering a copy!


I love snowflakes that feature large centers, and even more so when that center has a splash of colour – the colour here generated by bubbles in the ice that evoke the beautiful phenomenon of thin film interference; the same physics puts rainbows in soap bubbles and oil spots. The bubbles in the ice grow from the center of the prism facets to eventually cut the snowflake into two new parallel plates, since the center of the facet has less access to water vapour and grows more slowly. This leads to a novel type of branch formation! (I think I’m the only person that can get this excited about snowflake branch formation)


The branches all form from the lower “layer”, and the top layer continues to grow slowly outward, creating an overlap. Why all from one layer and not the other? It’s all about how quickly a snowflake can grow. Two factors are at play here: aerodynamics and plate thickness. It’s all really quite simple. If the snowflake’s backside is facing the wind, like a sail of sorts, it’ll collect more building blocks and the back-side grows faster and there be branches! Alternatively, if one of the two parallel plates is thinner than the other, then we encounter the “knife-edge instability”.


This instability is best described as bricklayers building a wall. If the wall is only one brick thick, it can be built faster than one multiple bricks thick. This logic translates to a thinner plate with access to the same number of “bricks” being able to grow outward at a faster rate, and we see the branches forming as a result. Because all six of the branches grow out of one side, it could be either of these possibilities but the aerodynamic solution is far less common.


Shot on my Lumix S1R with a Canon MP-E 65mm 1x-5x macro lens. As with all my snowflakes, the image is made handheld with a ring flash, focus stacked with an average of 40 frames (this one was 42), and processed in Photoshop with about four hours of work. The entire shooting and editing process is outlined in the book!

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Taken on February 15, 2021