The work of Moscow-based photographer Alexey Kljatov is featured in the Winter 2015 issue of American Forests as the “Last Look.” Now, he gives a new meaning to our web-exclusive column’s name. His work is about as “close up” as you can get: macro images of snowflakes, each one unique, each a testament to the minute complexity of nature.
When and why did you become a nature photographer?
My mother is a photography enthusiast, and I learned a lot about photography from her. At first, it was the basics of film SLR cameras. We used mostly Zenit cameras, which were very popular in the Soviet Union. Later, when the digital era began, I started using the Casio QV-3000 and was impressed by its ability to capture a tiny world, almost unseen by the naked eye.
Why snowflakes, in particular?
Like many beginners, I started photography with flowers and ladybugs and didn’t even think of trying anything else for several years. But one day, I saw two shots of snowflakes on the internet (unfortunately, I do not remember the photographer’s name) and was amazed by their cold, crystal-like beauty. The following winter, I started shooting snowflakes. In the beginning, I made many mistakes. My early snowflake shots were terrible, but I was happy, because I was seeing snowflake shapes and patterns, which hadn’t seen before.
What was the most difficult image you ever tried to capture?
Among all my snowflake photos, the ones that are the biggest headache to process are the huge, fernlike dendrite crystals, like those shown above. This is because I make several masks to remove noise, and masks for these snowflakes are really big and complex.
Your mother also photographs snowflakes. Would you say it runs in the family? Do you work on your photography together?
My mom became interested in snowflake photography after my very first efforts, and we often shoot together, using almost identical techniques. The biggest difference between our photos is that my mother does quick processing, rarely spending more than 10 minutes on a photo, while I spend several hours of work per photo trying to create a composite image of maximum quality out of several individual shots.
Do you have a favorite photo?
Among my earlier snowflake photos, my favorite is “Darkside,” which appears in American Forests Vol. 121, No. 1. Some people say they see the Imperial Crest from the Star Wars movies at its center, and I named it for this reason. Among my more recent snowflake photos, it’s difficult to choose a favorite. Maybe, the 12-sided crystal image I call “12 months” is the most intriguing from last winter’s series.