Miraculous Ice and Snow Crystals: What the Eye Can and Cannot See

07 January 2013

Lens:

1. First Snow,iPhone 4s, December 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. First Snow, iPhone 4s, December 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Snow on Umbrella, iPhone 4s, December 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. Snow on Umbrella, iPhone 4s, December 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Snow Crystals, iPhone 4s, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. Snow Crystals, iPhone 4s, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Ice Crystals, iPhone 4s, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

4. Ice Crystals, iPhone 4s, January 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.

Pens:

The human eye has its limits; the camera has its limits. But past and current technologies have given us a collage of hope: to see what is visible in a deeper more profound forum.

The camera can record what we cannot. It can bring into view the small and the large in variation and perspective. It can hold tight onto that round of snowflakes that are newly fallen or survived a snowstorm. It can preserve the memory of the first or last snow of the season. It does all that with continued reiteration that has surpassed the original invention’s capabilities. Still, while the twenty-first century version is a dandy, it remains the eye of the photographer to make the frame that captures the attention of a viewer.

Walter Benjamin (German, 1892-1940), who was a noted twentieth-century literary critic and philosopher, believed the human eye and the camera were a stellar duo. Because this combination allows the photographer to increase its observational skills, he came to see photographic technology as the “optical unconscious.”

When the first snow of winter 2012-2013 appeared in my small haven of the universe, I was too far from home to grab my Nikon DSLR. But I did have my iPhone and Olloclip (an easy-to-connect additional lens that attaches to the iPhone 4 and 4s). As I placed the Olloclip onto my iPhone, it reminded that this extra magnification was exactly what Benjamin meant: we use human innovations not only to record the world around us, but also to increase what we can see of it.

“…photography reveals…image worlds, which dwell in the smallest things – meaningful yet covert enough to find a hiding place in waking dreams, but which, enlarged and capable of formulation, make the difference between technology and magic visible as a thoroughly historical variable.” (Benjamin, “Little History” 512)

I wanted to catch the fleeting snow–capture the snowflakes, render the snow crystals part of my repertoire. Experimentation began. Experimentation continues.

Here is a chart with the extraordinary shapes of these small wonders. Sometimes we can see them with our eye, sometimes we need the camera’s magnification or microscope to witness nature’s artistry. Shapes are captivating. Some are familiar, others surprise.

Snow Crystals.com from Google Images

Snow Crystals.com from Google Images

In the Lens section are four of the images that seem to portray the essence of my experience: the wonder of the first snow on its first day (images 1 and 2) and the snow crystals and ice that lingered (images 3 and 4).

While I knew the conceptual photography of American-born twin brothers Mike and Doug Starn, I was surprised to discover their images of snowflakes, which is a series taken from 2006-2007. They pull you into their majesty, but they were not made simply for their magnificence. Here is a sample.

Sno specimen by Mike + Doug Starn, 2006

Sno specimen, Inkjet Print by Mike + Doug Starn, 2006

Alleverythingthatisyou Series, Inkjet Print by Mike + Doug Starn

Alleverythingthatisyou Series, Print by Mike + Doug Starn, 2006-2007

The Starn brothers wanted to show the impermanence of nature–the delicate balance between the seemingly perfect in its imperfection. The snowflake is aptly selected as their subject, being ephemeral and short-lived. They have stilled it, giving us a representation of invisible beauty made visible in a world tinted by human interference.

Winter 2013 has a forecast that includes major snowstorms. I’ll be ready to move in closer and closer to see the magic that Mother Nature bestows upon the landscape (and my driveway and sidewalks). But I’ll equip myself with my Nikon, macro and tripod, hoping that I’ll be able to record the miraculous in a new way.

Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of this blog.

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This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Human Nature, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Miraculous Ice and Snow Crystals: What the Eye Can and Cannot See

  1. eof737 says:

    Thees are impressive shots… i love that first one. 😉

  2. AinaBalagtas says:

    I love that last pic too! But all of them are awesome; great shots!

  3. That last shot is really cool – looks like a really lovely painting

  4. The snow and ice crystal shines and glows like priceless gems. Beautiful!

  5. Fossillady says:

    Mother nature is taken her time bringing us those major storms, but they will come. It’s like the quiet before the storm for now! Love the crystals and the analysis of the duo between our human eye and the optical lens of a camera

  6. phillybookpicks says:

    Love your pics and comments, Happy New Year !

  7. niki says:

    All images are beautiful but I love the last one! I love that interesting design, the energy, the colors and its craziness 🙂 Have a great year Sally !

  8. All of the photos are new views for me of a substance I take for granted. Thanks!

  9. EvaUhu says:

    number 01 and number 04 are my favourites: the first one for the contrast, the last one for the interesting texture and the not-quite-see-through-surface that leaves you wondering

  10. I like the final image best. It could almost be a painting.

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