Vintage photographs highlight the unique beauty of snowflakes

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Self-educated farmer Wilson Bentley took the first successful photos of snowflakes in the late 1800s on his farm in Vermont. Bentley used a bellows camera and a microscope to capture the images and was featured twice in National Geographic magazine, first in 1904 and then in 1923. The magazine has re-released the images from their original articles, showing just how beautiful and curious these tiny flakes are.

Bentley took over 5000 photos of the ice crystals during his lifetime, perfecting the art of photomicrographic technique and creating valuable records of the natural phenomena. His collection showed that no two flakes were identical, each having a unique shape.

According to National Geographic, Bentley started the project to share something he knew few others got to see.

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others.”

Bentley died on his farm in 1931. Five hundred of his snowflake photographs are now held by the Smithsonian Institute.


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