by Anna Mason
snowflake is unique - and nothing shows this better than
photographer Alexey Kljatov's macro-snowflake photography...
Born in Moscow,
still lives in
On a winter night in
2008, when the snow started to fall, he went out onto the balcony of
his ninth-floor apartment and stood poised with his camera.
Later that night,
transferring the images onto a high-resolution screen, Alexey saw
the results of his macro-photography experiment and was astounded.
Raised by photography-loving parents, Alexey was exposed to the art
from a young age.
equipment was good quality, but it wasn't until digital cameras
appeared that Alexey himself became interested.
"My first subjects
were flowers, bugs, and butterflies," he said.
"I also photographed
landscapes and cityscapes, especially night city illumination
and moon photos at high resolution; I was obsessed with
HDR for several years."
Today, Alexey places his
focus solely on snowflake macro-photography; his work sold widely,
published by NASA, and featured in outlets such as USA Today
and Fox News.
The journey started when
Alexey stumbled upon snowflake photos by
Kenneth Libbrecht on the web.
"Words can't describe
how amazing and unbelievable the snowflakes look in his photos!"
"From that day, I
waited for winter like never before, so I could try snowflake
Since that first night out on the balcony, Alexey's technical skill
and his understanding of the magic of water crystals continue to
His inspiration is the unlimited diversity of snowflake structures:
"Yes, each of these
crystals can be classified to limited set of types, and some
snowflakes look similar, but almost every snowflake session
makes me say 'Wow!' when I transfer photos from the camera and
see them on the high-resolution screen," he said.
"Some snowflakes are not symmetrical; some look boring and
uninteresting, but many of them are extremely beautiful, and
have amazing, strange, and absolutely unique structures, shapes,
or inner details."
Years after starting with just a handheld camera on auto setting,
plus a waterproof cover, Alexey has progressed to a far more
advanced setup, he says,
optics, tripod, fast serial shooting, and post-processing
While he loves getting
out of the city to the
Tver region, which he describes as
a land of big lakes, woods, and swamps, Alexey says his apartment
balcony is still the ideal spot for snowflake photography.
"Just two steps from
home on balcony, I can start shooting instantly," said Alexey.
"I can shoot any time
of the day and night, when I see falling snow from the window.
Nobody disturbs me here."
When doing this type of shooting, the outdoor temperature must be
lower than 23-25 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise the snowflakes melt
too quickly, the photographer said, adding,
"Shooting on the
balcony also means I can go inside when I start to freeze."
Are there any snowflakes
he has found particularly mesmerizing?
One of his most favorite snowflakes he captured was during the
previous winter - a stellar dendrite, one of most common types that
has a very beautiful center,
"in the form of a
hexagonal 3D pyramid and beautiful arms."
"Each of them has an
outer part which also resembles a snowflake, and this part has a
star-like structure with side branches, coming in all
directions, even inward.
It's an incredibly
rare structure," he said.
"Another remarkable finding is tiny plate without arms, just
about one millimeter from tip to tip, but this tiny thing
instantly attracted my attention even when I saw it with a naked
eye on a black background:
it has a square
snowflake has a hexagonal symmetry, or a variation, but this
specimen had clearly visible rectangular symmetry not only in
its shape, but also in all the inner details."
Likening snowflake photography to a sort of hunting, fishing, or
mineral collecting, Alexey says he's never sure what he might catch
Sometimes, when he's very
lucky, he gets what he calls "super-snowfall."
"This is when
amazing, super, unique snowflakes are everywhere and I point and
focus the camera as fast as I can to be able to catch more of
the treasures falling around," he said.
These super-snowfalls are
rare events, though, and sometimes very short.
But just half an hour can
yield amazing photos, worth,
"several winters of
'common snow' shooting."
Like many photographers, Alexey extols the benefits of Instagram
for showcasing his work.
He also uses Facebook,
is growing a snowflake library on Patreon, and integrates his
print-on-demand service, FineArtAmerica.
"My main goal is show
people just one small part of the unbelievable macro world,
unseen by our eyes" he added.