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 Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley (1865–1931) of Jericho Vermont, was a farmer and a highly-regarded amateur meteorologist who photographed snow—or more precisely, thousands of individual snow crystals. Drawn to their beauty and seemingly endless variety, Bentley isolated and captured these crystals in simple, stark photographs, creating his first successful image—a “photomicrograph” of a single snow crystal—on January 15, 1885. After much trial and error, he pioneered a photography technique using a bellows cameraattached to a compound microscope. He caught indvidual snow crystals on black velvet cloth and then rushed them to his microscopecamera before they began to melt. The creamy, matte of the velvet fabric proved to be the perfect backdrop to showcase the beautiful, feather-like crystals. Soon his work came to the attention of National Geographic, and Bentley pulished two articles—in January 1904 and January 1923—that showcased his extraordinary photography while also illustrating the basic science of snow. Ultimately, one comment he wrote on an early photographic plate sums up his fascination with the wintery phenomenon: “Mr. Bentley does not attempt to explain the delicate beautiful and unique central details of No. 779”
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