In the snow

A few things I saw in the snow:

That last oak leaf was a welcome color contrast against the whiteness. All of these are color images, but the first two look like I converted them and white.

More snowflakes

A gallery of a few of the snowflakes I’ve photographed in past years, snowflakes on snow, on ice, on bark, and on leaves:

A variety of sizes and crystal shapes in these:

  • The snow in the bark curls is simple rod crystals.
  • In the image with the curving flow lines, the snowflakes were quite large, the icy area is a few inches across.
  • The image of the snowflakes in snow is one I’d like to try again.


Snowflakes from a recent snowfall:

Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) is the pioneer of snowflake photography. More recently Kenneth Libbrecht and Nathan Myhrvold have taken snowflake photography to new technical heights. Bentley, Libbrecht, and Myhrvold all take a similar approach of isolating a single snowflake on a slide and using a camera with a microscope optics. Liebbrecht also grows snowflakes for photography in addition to photographing naturally occurring snowflakes.

Over a number of years, I’ve done snowflake photography using a high magnification lens, but I’ve used leaves and other plant materials as a setting instead of slides. I’ll set out a leaf to catch some snowflakes, and then set it on a table under an overhang and search for an interesting subject. I like the look of these settings better, but my technique has a lot of drawbacks. I work outside while the snow is falling and a breeze can blow away the snowflake, the leaf, or both. A controlled environment with a microscope stage is much better, but I like taking my chances.

Besides isolated crystals, it’s also interesting to see the the complex structures that occur: interpenetrating crystals at different angles or in a single plane, as in these two images. Visit Libbrecht’s site,, for illustrations of the many forms snowflakes can take and the conditions for forming them.

At the center

The center of a Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia):

Another view of the fruiting phase of a flower, part of the group of images I posted a while back, many of them asters. I’ll be back at ice photography again tomorrow morning, it’s going to be chilly tonight.

Flows and splinters

More ice and ice crystals from a recent cold snap:

The crystals cast shadows (just visible) on the water below in the first image. I’ve seen flow lines like those in the second one before, but not with those fine irregular details. The splinters (combs?) in the last one look like they grew from small bars scattered on the ice surface.

A frozen stream

Ice crystals that grew overnight on the surface of a stream:

I know that they grew overnight: I visited the spot the day before, and there was nothing but clear ice. At last, we had a few days of temperatures cold enough for interesting ice. It was 9°F last night and the night before, tonight may be even colder.

Mosses and lichens

In winter, I look for mosses and lichens for some winter color:

The showiest of these is the British solder lichen. The cup lichen in that image is a species in the same genus as British solder lichen, Cladonia. The haircap moss flower is last year’s flower, and may be the male flowering part. The tiny insect in the haircap moss (I think it’s an insect) was a surprise. I also saw tiny insect-like creatures in the crustose lichens. I haven’t identified the rock moss, found on the vertical face of a granite boulder in the woods.
My interest isn’t the taxonomy, it’s more the bright colors, graceful branches, and interweaved patterns I see in them.

Winter goldenrod

Spent goldenrod flowers, with a few seeds left:

The upright stem is less than an inch long – I took this at 2 or 3x magnification. There are a number of little details I haven’t noticed on godenrod before, the arching sepals and fibers on the stems.

Panicled grass

A tree-like grass inflorescence:

My best guess is that the grass is Panicum philadelphicum or another Panicum species. For some reason, the common name of grasses in this genus is panic grass. Maybe panicled grass is too many syllables! It’s a large inflorescence, at least 18 inches. The background is red-osier dogwood. I spent some time to key it out, it probably is Swida sericea, and not another Swida species. The showy vertical stems offered some nice winter color.

Halibut Point

The rocky shore at Halibut Point in Rockport, Masssachusetts at the end of the day:

I’ll have to go back to explore the rocks and the tide pools. The shoreline is eroded granite, here covered with dark kelp. To get to the point, you walk through an old granite quarry – an interesting place.