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Photographer creates highest resolution images of snowflakes on record

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Photographer Nathan Myhrvold created stunning, never-seen-before high-resolution photos of snowflakes. Here's how he did it.

Video Transcript

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: As a kid, you see pictures of snowflakes, and you wonder how on Earth they form.

MONICA DANIELLE: A kid from sunny Santa Monica, California, determined to photograph snowflakes. The problem? The right camera didn't exist.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So I said, hey, I'll make one of my own.

MONICA DANIELLE: That was the beginning of an 18 month journey that resulted in Nathan Myhrvold's own unique high tech creation.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: It's a combined camera and microscope.

MONICA DANIELLE: Creating a camera to snap photos like this was no easy feat.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So we had to make a microscope that could exist outside in super cold weather.

MONICA DANIELLE: From using the right materials to keep the equipment cold, to adding a special LED light that can flash brightly and quickly without melting the flake.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So it's got to be 5 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to make really nice looking flakes.

MONICA DANIELLE: Which means he had to find snowflakes in a consistently cold environment. Myhrvold chose Canada and Alaska.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: When you call places in Fairbanks and ask if they have a deck in January, they think you're really weird, because who the hell wants to go on the deck. But we need to go out on the deck.

MONICA DANIELLE: He set up on the deck with a black piece of cardboard cardboard covered in velvet to catch thousands of flakes. Not all flakes deserve a snapshot.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: A lot of snowflakes aren't that good looking. And that comes from a variety of things.

MONICA DANIELLE: Often, snowflakes break, or they stick together. Myhrvold uses a jeweler loop to look for the most photogenic snowflakes.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: So we look at them with a light, and even though they're very tiny, the best ones always spark like crazy.

MONICA DANIELLE: He then transfers the snowflakes to the microscopic slide using a tiny watercolor paintbrush. Myhrvold takes hundreds, sometimes thousands of photos using a technique called stacking. Each photo has a slightly different focus point. Then, software analyzes every photo and stacks them into one tiny, incredibly beautiful snowflake, captured forever in a single high resolution image.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: And so often, we get focused on oh God, I'll have to put chains on the car, or all of the problems that snow would bring, without looking at this incredible natural beauty that just occurs because a bunch of natural laws come together to make it. I just find it really inspiring.

MONICA DANIELLE: For AccWeather, I'm Monica Danielle.