Bentley Snowflakes

The slideshow below features artistic renderings of snowflakes based on photographs that were taken by Wilson A. Bentley, a 19th century Vermont farmer. In 1885, Bentley became the first person ever to capture the detail of a single snowflake in a photograph.

This achievement, which was accomplished by coupling a microscope with a bellows camera, came only after years of patient experimentation.  Having perfected the technique, Bentley went on to capture on photographic plates the images of more than 5000 snowflakes, preserving these “miracles of beauty” for generations to enjoy. 

Bentley also wrote about snowflakes, informing his readers that each complex snow crystal is a unique “masterpiece of design” that is never again repeated.  As it turns out, that’s not the whole story.  Snowflakes start out as simple crystals of ice in the clouds.  In the beginning, one snowflake will look very much like another.  Indeed, weather scientists who’ve collected snow crystals from the clouds have found exact duplicates.  It is only as snowflake grow and tumble towards the earth that they acquire the branches and contours that make each one unique.

There’s a nice book for children titled “Snowflake Bentley” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Author) and Mary Azarian (Illustrator).  There’s also a wealth of information about snowflakes at SnowCrystals.com.

This image shows an artistic rendering of a Bentley snowflake in a different style. For both this image and for those in the slideshow above, I began with digital scans of Bentley’s original photos, obtained from online archives. Using a graphics editor, I removed noise and dust, then selectively modified the exposure of the background to make it solid black. This allowed me to overly a color for the background and apply filters to the snowflake, adding translucence and edge enhancement for an “icy” look as seen in the top slideshow, or adding opacity and enhancing surface detail for the “snowy” look as seen to the left.

Also, even though Bentley took care to capture snowflakes on chilled slides, they sometimes suffered from thinning at the edges due to melting before he had a chance to make a photograph. I tried to compensate for this with selective modification of exposure (i.e. burning & dodging). Also, in cases where a bit of a snowflake seemed to have broken off or been cropped in the making of the photograph, I used cloning techniques to make repairs.

In all this, my goal was to show the structure and the beauty of each snowflake in some ways that go beyond what Bentley was able to do with the photographic technology available in his day.

Kew Gardens

This slideshow features photos from Kew Gardens, including some from the Summer 2010 Butterfly Display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Kew Gardens is a World Heritage Site covering approximately 300 acres with a diversity of plants and garden areas of various types and designs. Throughout the year, there is beauty to enjoy, as well as events and activities that educate and entertain.

Pebble Beach

This Google slideshow features photos taken during a visit to Pebble Beach in June of 2011. It shows various places along the Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive.

The 17-Mile Drive is a private road maintained by the Pebble Beach Company, with gates open from sunrise to sunset. There is a gate fee for automobiles and motorcycles are prohibited. As of January 2021, the gate fee was $10.50 per car. There is no fee for those who want to enter and explore on foot or bicycle.

Empire State Views

This slideshow features photo I took in 2008 from open-air observation deck of the Empire State Building. We needed to take two elevators to get to the 86th floor, which is the flat level from which the spire arises. There’s now an enclosed observatory, with floor to ceiling windows, in the 102nd floor in the spire. I haven’t visited that, but I understand it also offers a 360-view from a smaller but warmer space.

This page previously showed a Flash video using the “Ken Burns” effect to create a more dynamic visual experience than the current slideshow. I was able to incorporate the video into the website (which was originally created with Google Sites) via a Google “gadget.” It was pretty cool while it worked.

It stopped working long before Adobe announced the coming demise of Flash, so I replaced it with the Google slideshow you see below. When I find time, I may try to create a new video from the original images.

Winter Color

This slideshow features images derived from photos taken in December 2007 at the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA. The original photos did not quite capture the romantic atmosphere of the winter color, so I have applied an artistic filter to recreate the mood. Many of the plants you see here can be grown indoors in winter without requiring specialized conditions.