Snowflakes: No two really are the same
Grand Lake, CO Colorado
I see the irony of snow when the sheer power of an avalanche takes the life of a man and his dog on Berthoud Pass while they were doing what they loved, which was playing in snow.
We can’t help but process, that on any winter day in the mountains, snow can become a threat in our lives, it can enhance our lives, or it can be the source of our livelihoods.
We ski it, ride it, motor over it, shoe it, shovel it, throw it, drink it … we make angels.
It costs public works departments in the hundred of thousands throughout the county to move it.
Snow is commerce, recreation, but most importantly, it’s the essential life of our rivers and landscapes.
To me, snow is beauty. It cleanses our earth in the reflective months of winter.
But, as someone else recently put it, those who like snow “don’t have to shovel it.”
In the midst of winter’s cold temperatures and snows, one person is generating a fresh perspective.
That snow is fascinating, whether as large as a massive cornice on a mountain ridge, or as small as a delicate snowflake.
Karla Jean Booth of Grand Lake has been photographing snowflakes since 2006. Using macro photography equipment much like a microscope, Booth has chronicled the fleeting existence of some amazing crystals and has displayed her work in various businesses in Grand Lake and Winter Park.
Her passion, she says, is simply water – whether frozen or cascading down a rock formation. In summer, she creates waterfalls in landscapes.
What inspired her to become a snowflake photographer was the work of Japanese artist Masaru Emoto, the man known for freezing water to sounds, words, prayers and music. What he found was water responds in ways that emulate emotion.
It did not take long for Booth to see artistry in snow.
“I have pretty good eyesight, so when it was snowing, I looked at my sleeve and was amazed at what I could see with just my own eyes,” she says. “This was begging for a closer look.”
Booth captures a fresh snowflake shot while it snows, before the opportunity melts away.
“The conditions must be pretty good for me to get great shots,” she says.
Cold, Booth says, is a snowflake’s best friend. The colder it is, the more crisp the detail of the snowflake and the more dendrites (arms) grow to become longer and more intricate. Such intricate snowflakes are called “stellar dendrites.”
What skiers call “champagne snow” conditions are when the air is cold enough to form nice glittery crystals deemed ideal for photographing, oftentimes around the minus 12 degree range.
If they form correctly, snowflakes are usually six-sided. But, “they all don’t form perfectly.”
The warmer the temperatures, around 15 to 30 degrees above zero, the more “rime” you get on the flakes, Booth said, which means condensation in the air freezes on flakes as they fall. Considered warm weather snowflakes, they are fluffy and have rounded edges, making them ideal for skiing because they don’t have edges that “bite” at skis.
Booth has seen snowflakes with duck feet on the tips, ones that look like “mechanical gear” in the shape of a hexagon, and some that have a hollow cone in the center.
“There are no two snowflakes alike,” she said. “I can verify that.”
Known as the “Snowflake Lady,” Booth gets so caught up in the excitement of snowflake shapes and sizes while photographing that she sometimes forgets it’s really cold outside, until her fingers remind her.
“I love it,” she said. “I think the coolest thing about it is that after people see the snowflakes, it opens up a whole new world to them.”
As we suffer through cold days when cars don’t start and dirty snow piles high on the edge of driveways, this is a reminder to look deeper this winter season.
Like the Snowflake Lady, I appreciate winter, and commit to seeing its wonder. Before it expires. (Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted spring is just around the corner).
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