Close up of snow crystal photo by Luke Copland located in your website's photo gallery


Snow crystal photo by Luke Copland.
As a photographer - and also a follower of CCIN's cryospheric research efforts - I am curious as to how he accomplished this beautiful close up photo. What kind of lens was used, filter used - if any, was the snow placed on a mirror? I am an author and speaker about water - therefore, my interest. Thank you, William Waterway

Response from Dr. Luke Copland:

I took that photo in the field in the Yukon with a basic handheld camera, as part of a glaciology field class for undergraduate students. To see those patterns we dug a snowpit about 2 m deep in the accumulation area of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, and dug the snow out from either side of a horizontal ice lens. I then chipped a piece of the lens out with an ice axe, and smoothed and thinned it down by melting it with my hands until it was a few mm thick. I then placed the ice lens on a sheet of polarized film and overlaid another piece of polarized film on top. By rotating the top sheet it cross-polarizes the light that passes through (in a slightly different way for each ice crystal), producing the effects seen in the photo. This technique is often used in ice coring to understand how the orientation and characteristics of ice crystals change with depth.

It should be pretty easy to reproduce this at home. You just need any piece of flat ice – you could freeze some water in a dinner plate for example. The ice can be thinned in the base of a frying pan on little (or no) heat. You can buy sheets of the polarizing film from good camera stores or suppliers such as this one:

…or even use polarized sunglasses. When you put the ice between the polarized material and shine light through it you should see effects similar to those shown in the photo.




Reply from William:

Thank you Luke - amazing how creative we humans can be when using technology to explore and understand the world of ice.

Last updated on 17/01/2018