This is another case of me figuring everyone and their mother had already seen these photos, but it seems every news agency on earth has gone crazy for these shots in the last week, so I guess not as many people have seen them as I thought. Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov has been making headlines for a couple months now over his GORGEOUS snowflake pics. These are truly extraordinary, and the fact he took these without the aid of any microscope and just used a crappy point and shoot camera and an old lens he had laying around speaks to his ingenuity and talent. His blog and photos say the rest:
"I capture snowflakes at open balcony of my house, mostly on glass surface, lighted by LED flashlight from opposite side of glass, and sometimes in natural light, using dark woolen fabrics as background.
On a floor of a balcony I put the turned stool (legs up), on them - a glass plate. Previously, i shoot using Canon A650's standard macro mode. For this, from a small plastic bottle I cut central cylindrical part in the form of a tube (height 5.5 cm). This height I picked up so that the lens of the camera, pushed in a tube, will be at distance 1 centimeter from the bottom (this is minimum focusing distance of Canon A650 in macro mode). I just put this cylinder with the camera's lens within it over the chosen snowflake, the lens looks vertically down. For steady shots, i shoot in small series with starting delay 1-2 seconds after focusing, taking away my hands off the camera. With free hand i illuminate snowflake with flashlight from under the glass. The flashlight shines through two layers of white plastic bag for more uniform lighting. This is enough for shooting even at night with minimum ISO and short exposure time.
Recently, i built simple macro addon for the camera. I used lens Helios 44M-5 from old USSR SLR camera Zenit (here is short description in wikipedia). At first, i attached these lens at narrow wooden board (around 30 cm long), reversed: a back lens to snowflake, front lens to camera, and drilled in a board an opening for a screw suitable to tripod nest of the camera. Then camera is put on a board so that the lens in the maximum optical zoom mode (6x) touched Helios lens and looked straight into them. I attach the camera by a screw and additionally with metallic bracket, glued to the board, it holds opposite side of camera, so it didn't move anywhere. On Helios's back side (which is front of whole construction) i attached three standard narrow extension rings from Zenit camera (this is needed only in case of shooting at glass surface with backlight). This holds lens at needed focusing distance from the glass with snowflakes (2,5-3 centimeters). Place of connection between internal and external lens i covered with some sort of skirt, maked from black plastic bag: this protects connection point from outer light, snow, ice and waterdrops. All design turned out rather strong and steadily stands vertically with lenses looking down. I simply put it on glass over the chosen snowflake and shoot at maximum optical zoom instead of macro mode. Camera's autofocus works well."