Cold temperatures and moisture create natural art to defy description. Over the years I have seen and wondered over various examples at Elk Lake. Then, a few weeks back, I was introduced to a photographer whose medium - snowflakes - presented the most beautiful examples of macro photography I have ever seen. Since then I have been on a quest!
Snow (or ice) art comes in various forms. Most common are the hoarfrost creations. Lake ice can also be an amazing medium. However, the delicate, intricate forms created by both ice and snow have captured my interest of late. While my macro photography needs work, these photos give a decent 'sample' of nature's work in my backyard.
We walk on it, drive across it, shovel it, blow it, and even curse it - but do we ever really LOOK at it? Have you ever thought about 'why' snow fields spit crystal fire at the sun? The photos above are intended to draw you in closer and closer. Note in the first the snow's rugged surface. Drawing closer one sees a miniature 'forest' growing in that snow field. Even closer and shapes begin to appear. The hexagonal plates and thin stars seen in the third and fourth photos are said to 'grow' around 28 degrees F. and again around 5 degrees F.
Dainty butterflies. Glass bows. Crystal flowers budding. Feathers. Crystal Cotton? These names and more come to mind when one sees these crystal creations. According to Wikipedia, these lovely blooms and bows are called "Feather Ice". These thinner-than-paper blossoms grow only at temperatures below -22 degrees F.
Another shape appears when snow and lake ice colide at just the right temperatures and moisture level. I call these 'ferns.' Although beautiful, like living ferns, these crystal creatures seem to grow best near live water.
According to SnowCrystals.com, "Sometimes the branches of stellar crystals have so many sidebranches they look a bit like ferns, so we call them fernlike stellar dendrites. . .These crystals can be extremely thin and light. . .The best powder snow. . .is made of stellar dendrites." Dendrites are created when temperatures are around 5 degrees F.
Then there are the combinations - ice needles and crystal ferns. What a hat decoration these would make! Interestingly enough, the ice needles are created at a warmer temperature than the dendrite crystal ferns. So how did they come to exist side by side?
According to CalTech, "Why snow crystal shapes change so much with temperature remains something of a scientific mystery." I admit it has me puzzled. All these glorious creations were found within a half mile radius. That they could be so varied - and so beautiful - baffles the mind. Were it not their medium is so COLD, I suspect I would be tempted to spend this winter crawling around on my knees with a magnifying glass!
Lady of the Lake