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All of the snowflake photos on this page, believe it or not, were captured using a six-year-old point-and-shoot Canon camera and a standard 58mm SLR lens that was produced in the USSR sometime between 1958 and 1992. Such photography ought to be impossible without a microscope or other expensive gear, but it just perfectly illustrates the photographic and aesthetic ingenuity of Alexey Kljatov, a Russian photographer who lives in Moscow.
To take these photos with a normal camera and lens, Kljatov exploits a fairly well known photographical hack: reversing a standard prime lens to turn it into a very strong macro lens. Without getting into the physics of how camera lenses work, here’s a basic explanation of how it works: A standard 50mm lens has to reduce everything it sees down to the size of the film negative or digital CMOS sensor. If you reverse the lens, it does the opposite, projecting an almost-life-size image upon the negative/sensor. This is obviously no good for photographing large objects, but it’s perfect for the details in small objects, such as flowers, bugs, or snowflakes.
Alexey Kljatov’s setup consists of a Canon A650 IS point-and-shoot (extended to its maximum 6x optical zoom), attached to a reversed Helios 44M-5 (58mm f/2.0) prime lens. Because the rear element of the lens is exposed, an extension tube is screwed onto the end, acting as an ad hoc lens hood. The entire thing is strapped to a plank of wood and wrapped in black plastic — to keep it still, and to block any stray light from entering the contraption. The camera is then rested on its head, pointing down through some glass at a target. Kljatov photographs snowflakes either on a transparent piece of glass, or on a dark woolen fabric. He illuminates the snowflakes with a flashlight, or sometimes shoots in natural light.
Curiously, Kljatov doesn’t use a microscope — unlike Wilson Bentley, the original snowflake photographer, who famously caught snowflakes on a blackboard, transferred them to a microscope slide, and then quickly took photos before the snowflakes melted.
Kljatov says that the original shots are almost monochromatic, so he performs some post processing to add some color. Otherwise, the photos appear to be straight out of the camera, with a bit of cropping.
Click through the slideshow to see more photos of snowflakes — and also to be wowed by my surprisingly large amount of snowflake-related trivia, such as, how do snowflakes form, and is it true that no two snowflakes are the same?
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