More snowflake photography – No two alike?

Posted on 26. Feb, 2009 by in Everything, Everything Else, Snowflake

More snowflake photography – No two alike? – One of the common bits of knowledge is that there are supposedly no two snowflakes that are alike.  And in my relatively limited experience of closely examing these wonderful water vapor crystals, I have yet to find any that are even reasonably close to identical.  And, it is unlikely in the extreme, that I’ll ever photograph two identical crystals.  Why is this?

It really comes down to the math of permutations and combinations (ack, math!).  Let’s say you have 5  DVDs that you want to arrange on a shelf in your media stand.  There are five possible places you can put the first DVD, four for the second, three for the third, two for the fourth and only one place to put the last DVD.  Do the multiplication on those possibilities [n ! = n*(n-1)*(n-2)….2*1 or 5! = 5 *4 * 3 * 2] and you’ll discover that there are 120 possible ways to arrange those 5 DVDs.  Increase the number of DVDs to 20, do the math (20! = 20 * 19 * 18 …*2) and you’ll be amazed when the possible ways to arrange those 20 DVDs jumps to 2,432,902,008,176,640,000 (or almost 2.5 quintillion).  And that’s just arranging 20 DVDs on a shelf.

Imagine now if there were only 100 possible ways a snowflake could grow.  Do the math and you’ll discover a number just slightly bigger than the money given to the banks for the latest financial bailout.  I jest.  Seriously though, with just 100 factors to arrange, there are more possibilities than there are atoms in the universe.

When considering the number of ways a snowflake can grow, there are well more than a hundred differentiations or markings that one could use to distringuish snowflakes from each other.  Even if one collected all the snowflakes that fell throughout the year and were somehow able to compare them all, it is completely unlikely that you’d find a pair of absolutely identical snowflakes.  It isn’t impossible, just like it isn’t impossible that I’ll ever win the lottery or my friend Yvonne will admit when I’ve won an argument, it’s just extremely, extremely unlikely.

Here’s a few more snowflakes for your consideration from the other day’s photography session.  It’s been much too cold since than for interesting snowflake, but hopefully something will happen with the warmer weather expected for weekend.

Remember you can click on these images to view larger versions of the images.

If you’ve got comments or questions, I’d love to hear them.

Sectored Plate

Sectored Plate

12-Branched Star

12-Branched Star

Sectored Plate

Sectored Plate

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6 Responses to “More snowflake photography – No two alike?”

  1. Very cool!

    (No pun intended…)

    I have never seen pictures of snow flakes like this.

    Did you use tele-extenders?

    • Paul Burwell

      27. Feb, 2009

      Thanks for the compliment.

      I built a rig with a copy stand, and a slider rail (for fine focusing). I use a Canon MP-E 65mm with various sized extenders. You could also use tele-extenders but it would soften the image a bit because you lose a bit of quality.

  2. Kathy

    07. Mar, 2009

    Love snowflakes – I think they are beautiful and really impressed by your images! Thanks for sharing!

    • Paul Burwell

      07. Mar, 2009

      Thanks Kathy. Glad you enjoyed them.

      Snowed again today but too warm for nice crystals. Supposed to be snow and colder tomorrow so I have my fingers crossed.

  3. FrugalNYC

    06. Apr, 2009


    The first question I had was, “how did he do that?”
    Of course, I asked the same about night shots the first time I saw some of those. Photography is a great subject to study and practice.

    Thanks for those wonderful shots and for sharing your photos.

    Would appreciate any tips you have for me. My current photo blog is at


  1. More snowflake photography - No two alike? - Paul Burwell (WildShots) | Photo News Today - February 27, 2009

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