Don Komarechka has spent more than 2500 hours photographing snowflakes. Over the past five years, the 29-year-old Canadian has dedicated his winters to obsessively capturing their geometric peculiarities and tiny asymmetries—which means he has to get them before they melt.
“Everything has to happen very fast, and it needs to be done handheld,” he tells Quartz. “Handholding a camera while photographing a subject that can be smaller than a millimeter is very tricky.” Each snowflake is photographed on a homemade black mitten. The dark background offers contrast, and the fibers allow the frozen crystals to land on an angle.
To make the snowflakes appear in photos as whole and crisp as if they’d fallen straight under a microscope, Komarechka takes up to 50 pictures of the same crystal. He focuses on different parts before blending the shots together to create a single accurate image.
The process, he says, can take four to five hours per flake.
In addition to photos, Komarechka’s book Sky Crystals (2013) delves into the science of snowflake formation.