A collection of crystals
Some time ago, finding and photographing ice crystals became a winter project. There’s a story to my discovery of ice crystals, but first the images:
And here’s the story of how I got into tromping out into 5 degree Fahrenheit weather to photograph ice crystals.
1. Snowflakes – The prelude to my crystal story. Snowflakes are perhaps the most familiar ice crystal form – a hexagonal shape. Snowflakes form in the sky, but the most of the crystals that form on terrestrial objects have a recognizably hexagonal form. These snowflakes fell on a slender branch and are highly magnified.
2. The leaf and the star – The real start for my story is this image of stream ice. I’d been photographing the swirling, curving patterns on steam ice – but what was the spiky star at the bottom of the beech leaf?
3. Ice stars – When it gets quite cold, under 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the icy surface of the stream sprouts stars: crystal spikes that radiate from a center. Sometimes there are clusters of them, sometimes the spikes overlap, *matting the stream surface* with crystals.
4. Crystals on snow – When it gets colder, zero to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, crystals can accumulate on the snow by a stream. Some of the crystals have feathery shapes. The feathery crystals are the ones I love best. They are relatively rare, and need a combination of conditions to form. Lack of wind may be a factor. If it’s windy at night, stars and spikes can form instead.
5. Crystal feathers or ferns – An extreme closeup of a fern-like shape on snow at the edge of a stream. It looks like a snowflake, but it crystallized on earth from water vapor from the stream.
6. Feathers and ferns – The feathery shapes can form on twigs and other objects. This twig was above a brook.
7. Leaf crystals – A leaf on the stream surface with crystals at the edge. The ice crystals can be diverse – a combination of feathers, spikes, and rays.
8. Crystalline pipes – These hollow hexagonal pipes formed on a stem. This was taken in a field near a wetland.
9. Pipes on a frozen drops – Crystals can form on frozen drops if the temperature drops quickly from near freezing to a much lower temperature.
10. Plates on a grass blade – From the same field near a wetland. Crystals can form in clear hexagonal plates.
11. Foxtail frost – More plates on a foxtail in the same meadow near a wetland.
I keep going back in such ridiculously cold weather because of the variety of the crystal forms. They are like flowers, but unlike the more or less predictable succession of wildflowers, I only can only guess what I’ll find when I go out on a cold morning.