Dec 14, 2022 - News

This Colorado doctor photographs snowflakes in incredible detail

The center of this snowflake appears to have formed another snowflake. Photo: Jason Persoff/Stormdoctor.com

Every snowflake is unique — and few people know that better than Jason Persoff, an Aurora-based "storm-chasing physician" who snaps captivating close-ups of snow crystals.

Why it matters: Each tiny flake tells a special story based on the atmospheric conditions it encounters in the half-hour it takes to form and fall, Persoff says. So, he's helping share those frame by frame.

Details: Using a macro lens, bright light, a sock and a table, Persoff's pictures reveal complexities that, even after six years, defy his expectations, he tells Axios Denver.

  • He makes the magic happen by bundling up during big snowstorms and positioning on the front porch, where he holds out a black wool sock to catch the falling flakes.
  • Illuminating the snow with a round light, he searches for the most spectacular shapes, then takes the photos as quickly as possible before they're gone.

What he's saying: A little-known fact is snowflakes aren't pure white or crystal clear. Under the right light, "beautiful colors can be seen," says Persoff, assistant director of emergency preparedness at the University of Colorado Hospital.

  • "One of the things I love about them is how the color illuminates what almost look like intentional designs a jeweler might make," he adds.
Snowflakes can develop a central "bubble" that creates layers of differing density. When light passes through the layers and refracts back toward the viewer, colors can be seen. Photo: Jason Persoff/Stormdoctor.com

Of note: Persoff recently made headlines for capturing a rare 12-sided snowflake.

  • For anyone interested in picking up his hobby, he has a YouTube channel with several instructional videos.
Snowflakes aren't flat, but rather grow outward and vertically, developing in layers. This leads to a three-dimensional "floral" center, visible in this photo. Look closely, and another small snowflake can be seen attached to the lower-right arm. Photo: Jason Persoff/Stormdoctor.com
Jason Persoff deems the structure of this snowflake "nearly perfect." Photo: Jason Persoff/Stormdoctor.com
Due to microclimates the snowflake experiences as it forms, not all of the arms will grow symmetrically. This photo shows where the north-facing arm bears a "sword in the stone" appearance due to encountering a different environment than the rest of the flake. Photo: Jason Persoff/Stormdoctor.com
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