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Photographer Unveils the Rainbow World of Ice Crystals

How a former high school science teacher discovered an optical phenomenon in ice.
All images courtesy the artist.

High school science teacher and former industrial photographer Tom Wagner discovered a fascinating world of colors trapped within thin layers of ice. He explained the trick to us: "The colors in the crystals of the otherwise colorless ice show up best when the ice is placed between 'crossed' polarizing filters." This effect of light becoming doubly refracted in a transparent material with a crystalline structure, such as ice, he says, is called birefringence.


To create his high resolution pictures at a high enough magnification, Wagner worked for two months to build a contraption out of an ice cream bucket to serve as a light box, a pair of movie theater 3D glasses to filter out certain wavelengths, and a piece of window glass to sandwich together ice samples. "Trust me, I froze half to death this winter," Wagner writes in his in-depth process guide.

Below, immerse yourself in Wagner's kaleidoscopic results, and be sure to check out his website for more photos and guides.

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