|If you wanted to find some especially well-formed
snow crystals, where would you look? Of course, you need a snowy
climate, but not all snow is the same; some locations are better
than others. So where are the best snowflake spots? Where does one find
the greatest snow on earth?|
Since I live in Southern California
and I like to photograph snowflakes, I go traveling in search of good
crystals. Here are some spots I know about.
one of my favorite snowflake spots, especially the small town of
Cochrane, Ontario. Temperatures around -15 C (5 F) are best for finding
large stellar snow crystals (see the morphology diagram),
and this is about the average temperature in Cochrane in January. There
is also little wind around Cochrane, and there are frequent light
snowfalls. I have taken many of my best photographs in Cochrane.
Fairbanks in January feels a bit like visiting another planet ... one
that's far from the sun! The temperature gets down to -40 C (-40 F)
frequently, the sun barely makes it above the horizon (I took this
photo at noon), and one can occasionally witnexx spectacular aurora
lighting up the night sky.
Overall the weather is often too cold
for good snowflakes in Fairbanks, but I have found some beautifully
faceted crystals there.
had a nice visit to the town of Kiruna one winter, and I managed to
find and photograph some spectacular stellar crystals one afternoon. It
doesn't snow especially often in Kiruna, but the crystals can be nice
when it does.
I have learned that packed snow on the streets is
a good indicator of a good snowflake location. This tells me: 1) it
probably snows often, and 2) the snow doesn't melt quickly.
Bentley started taking snowflake photographs in Jericho, Vermont,
beginning in 1885, and his well-known work identified Vermont as an
excellent snowflake location. I took this photo in nearby Burlington,
looking over Lake Champlain. The steam rising off the lake puts copius
amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere for making snowflakes.
northern island of Hokkaido is known for its excellent snow, and snow
crystals, as documented at length by physicist Ukichiro Nakaya in the
1930s. I took this picture in Asahikawa, showing the Snow Crystals
museum during a nice snowfall.
are probably many other excellent snowflake spots out there. The Baltic
nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) routinely offer high-quality
snowflakes, as do parts of Russia. I suspect the area
around Lake Baikal in Siberia has some awesome snowflakes, so that's
high on my to-visit list.
If you happen to live in a cold
climate, you might have a look at your local snowflakes and see how
they measure up. Start with an inexpensive magnifier, and consider it a
challenge to find your first capped column or fernlike stellar
dendrite. From there, you can try a camera with some macro capability
(it might be a nothing more than a smartphone with an inexpensive
clip-on macro lens attachment) and see what pictures you can take.
Perhaps you too will be bitten (or frost-bitten?) by the snowflake