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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.

by Becky Chung
09 March 2015, 2:45pm

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. 

If you also have an awesome project to share, email us: editor@thecreatorsproject.com

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Tagged:
Science
ice
Photography
science art
light
Wavelength
birefringence
wavelengths
Macrophotography
Tom Wagner
birefringent
polarizing