Visual Stories

PHOTOS: Inside the breathtaking world of snowflakes, magnified

To capture stunning photographs of snowflakes, you'll need a high-end camera equipped with expensive, specialized lenses and other gear. Well, either that or a cheap point-and-shoot and some ingenuity, all held together by a little tape.

Alexey Kljatov, a Russian photographer, uses the latter method. In a blog post, he lays out in some detail the homemade system he uses. It starts with a Canon A650 -- a point-and-shoot released back in 2007, a veritable eon in the fast-moving world of electronics technology -- which Kljatov affixes to a board using the camera's tripod mount. Then he mounts an old Helios lens, a relic of the Soviet era, backward to act as a magnifier. With the addition of some plastic, some tape (and sometimes a few other items), the assemblage is ready. His lighting gear -- which basically consists of a cheap LED flashlight and white plastic -- is similarly low-tech. And similarly effective.

More astonishing than Kljatov's ingenuity are what his do-it-yourself setup produces. The snowflakes that appear in his images are magnified beyond the point of easy recognition as the little white crystals that pile up on outwear and windshields. Instead, we encounter nearly-colorless stark shapes of unearthly clarity. Where colors do trickle in -- in the sunset-like blur of backgrounds, or in tight rainbows along the crisp edges of crystal patterns -- they sharpen the ethereal quality of the snowflakes, further estranging them from their everyday context. As a result, the photos are both odd and deeply beautiful, and they come close to capturing something of the spirit of the ideal snowflake. These are snowflakes that transcend nature as much as exemplifying it.