Our First Winter Snowfall

our first winter snowfallObserving snowflakes as they wisp about the Saltspring Nursery air, got me thinking about the snowflake man during our first Winter snowfall.
An incredible triumph made from one mans intrigue and great persistence. Could you imagine the rush in order to actually take a decent picture of a snowflake but getting it under the microscope first?
Double tricky but Wilson Bentley did it, thousands of times over!
The story of The Snowflake Man starts with Mr. Wilson Bentley during the 1800’s, at 15 years old when his momma showed him a microscope. Wilson became fascinated at looking at things through his new microscope.
So it did really change his life forever.
It was the snowflakes that amazed Wilson Bentley the most. He would study them for hours, collecting them as they fell so to gaze at them through the microscope.
Apparently he was really taken back by the shear beauty of these snow crystals. To no surprise he met with frustration when he would try to duplicate their beauty by drawing them.
It was when Wilson Bentley was told about the ability to attach a camera to the microscope that really set the stage.
Although he knew nothing about cameras or photography, he insisted on acquiring a camera and learning how to use one, along with the microscope and snowflakes.
I find this truly amazing. Especially since snowflakes can readily melt. What a task to photograph them but sheer delight to view such results.
Wilson Bentley managed to convince his father to buy him a camera. Apparently it took months for him to learn how to use the camera with the microscope but finally he successfully photo-micro-graphed a snow flake. Stunning.
For the next 48 years, Wilson Bentley continued to photograph snow flakes each winter as the snow fell.
His setting was said to be an open shed and that Wilson would catch snowflakes on a velvet lined sheet so to quickly photograph them. Wilson Bentley would also process his own photos as well.
Wilson Bentley micro-photographed over 4500 snow crystal images. Apparently scientists today still use some of Wilson Bentley’s snow crystal photographs to help them study the marvels of snow.
To view some of these micro-photographs, simply visit the public domain reviews dot org. Or commons.wikipedia dot org to view many images of Wilson Bentley’s work.

With our first real winter snowfall, as we watch the snowflakes fall, may we also be as amazed as Wilson Bentley was with the snow crystals of winter.

For more in depth read about Wilson Bentley, The Snowflake Man, the book Snow Crystals can be found at Abe Books, perhaps used but in good condition and at a reasonable price.

Enjoy this Winter’s Snowfall.

photo credits