High Tech Photos Capture Snowflakes Like Never Before

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Microscopy used to be a rarity in the hobby electronics world. But anyone doing lab work has always needed a microscope and with today’s tiny parts, it is almost a necessity. However, [Nathan Myhrvold] didn’t use an ordinary microscope to capture some beautiful snowflake pictures. According to [My Modern Met], the pictures are the highest resolution snowflake pictures ever taken.

Of course, the site is more interested in the visual aspect of it, but they did provide some clues about the tech behind the pictures. According to the site:

Myhrvold used a special camera of his own design. He combined the magnifying power of a microscopic lens.. with a specially designed optical path. This path allowed the lens to channel its image to a medium-format digital sensor… In addition, the camera featured a cooling stage upon which the tiny specimens could rest. With LED short-pulse lights and a shutter speed of less than 500 microseconds, Myhrvold was able to capture multiple images of each snowflake at different focal lengths. These images were then stacked to create the final image.

As you might expect, [Myhrvold] isn’t a weekend photographer. He holds a PhD in Physics and did post doc work with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge. He was Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer for a time and then founded a company merging cooking and photography, where these are available as prints.

According to the post’s interview with [Myhrvold], it took 18 months to design and build the camera. It helped to take the pictures on location where it was quite cold. You’d think colder would be better, but apparently there is a sweet spot where the snowflakes don’t clump together nor do they dry out. Also using the cooling stage and pulsed LEDs help in not melting the snowflake before the picture completes.

We wonder what photograph or microphotograph rigs you’ve built? Most of the microscope hacks we see are a little less involved. Hooking up a camera is a common affair, but we haven’t seen refrigeration and light modulation before.

Photo Credit: Ice Queen by [Nathan Myhrvold]




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