Cold Days & Winter Tales: The Great Snowflake Photographer


Are you still embracing winter?  Looking forward to spring?  A little of both?

Here in the Midwest we have had a moderate amount of snow and a lot of days with frigid temperatures.  As I write this post, it is below freezing outside.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’m still relishing winter.  At this point, spring can’t come fast enough for me!

But there’s a silver lining to all of this: There’s still time to cozy up with the kids and read a few more winter picture books!

We have some Jan Brett books checked out of the library right now and those are always favorites around here.  Several of them are set in winter.  My son’s favorite is The MittenThe Snowy Day by Keats always makes us smile. We also love Katy and the Big Snow by Burton.

One book that we absolutely love is Snowflake Bentley by Briggs Martin.

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was a homeschooled kid.  His mother taught him at home until he was fourteen years old. He attended school for only a few years.

Bentley was a curious person and a self-motivated learner.  Not only did he spend countless hours studying nature; he also read through his mother’s entire set of encyclopedias.

This curiosity caused him to glance upward at the falling snow of Vermont, where he lived, and see more than just precipitation. He saw something magical in the details of each unique snow flake. And he wanted the rest of the world to see it too.

He started out attempting to draw snow crystals by hand, which, needless to say, was a frustrating endeavor.  He eventually convinced his parents to spend their hard-earned savings on a camera, thus beginning his journey into the world of photography.

He tirelessly experimented with his pictures, making many mistakes along the way until he finally got things right.  Bentley was one of the first known photographers of snowflakes.

Bentley’s happiest days were snow days. He marched out into snowstorms and captured more than 5,000 images  of crystals in his lifetime. He described snowflakes as “tiny miracles of beauty” and “ice flowers.”

“I found that snowflakes were masterpieces of design,” Bentley said. “No one design was ever repeated.  When a snowflake melted … just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

He worked painstakingly and patiently for long hours to memorialize the details of each distinctive and stunning ice crystal he captured.

Most people at the time didn’t seem to care and even laughed at Bentley’s attempts to photograph commonplace snow crystals.  But Bentley continued to develop his art, despite the criticism.

Bentley’s dedication inspires me.  I marvel at his patience to overcome obstacles and lovingly labor over each delicate, fleeting snowflake he worked with.


Although Bentley’s work wasn’t immediately appreciated by his neighbors, it is valued in modern times.  Many people who want to learn about snowflakes today start with Bentley’s book, Snow Crystals.

Even though photography equipment has improved over time, Bentley’s work in photographing snowflakes in the late 1800s was done in such an excellent way that “hardly anybody else bothered to photograph snowflakes for almost 100 years,” according to Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

I am in awe of Bentley’s character. His dogged determination. How he saw the acute beauty and wonder in something so ordinary and fleeting.  I am inspired by his pursuit of excellence.

Shoveling driveway.jpg

Shoveling “tiny miracles of beauty” off our driveway!

At this point in the winter, I’m not always very happy to see snow falling outside my window.  But I’m glad to be reminded that it’s not just something to shovel off my driveway.  Each flake is an intricately beautiful work of art.


Photo Credit: Final picture courtesy of author. 

3 thoughts on “Cold Days & Winter Tales: The Great Snowflake Photographer

  1. My daughter is a single parent who has a 12 year old son who is taunted at school. and continues 2 get into trouble when he stands up against the predator. We would like some help an understanding how to homeschool a child with problems that wants to be out in the world but the world won’t take him. Thank you for all of your input.


    • There ARE resources out there to help you. Join HSLDA for starters. They have resources specifically geared to help those homeschooling children with extra needs.
      You might want to consider independent testing with a psychologist to see if he has Asperger’s and/or ADD or another challenge that makes it difficult to “fit in” at school, and very often makes kids a target. It is not cheap, but it is very important and helpful to know exactly what is causing the challenges and, thus, how best to work with him and help him achieve his own best.

      It’s not an easy choice, but often it will be the best thing for the child, especially if they are a constant target at school.
      We pulled our son and homeschooled him, and he absolutely blossomed once he was away from the bullies and felt safe again to focus on learning.

      There are lots of other websites, blogs and resources online. Best wishes!!


  2. These are very beautiful.
    Good to see young ones being alert too more things in life.
    I myself have been taking photographs of snow flakes for so so so many years, I’m never disappointed by any of them.
    I’ve even had ones land on me that look like angels………
    Keep up the awesome beauty😊


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