One of Alexey Kljatov’s exquisite snowflake photos.
Albrecht Durer was renowned for his skill in painting detail. There’s a legend that he was once asked by the artist Giovanni Bellini for the brushes with which he painted hair. Durer handed Bellini an unremarkable brush. ‘I do not mean this, I mean the brushes you use to paint several hairs with one touch,’ Bellini answered. Durer proceeded to demonstrate that it was all in the technique, not the tool.
A still life by Alexey Kljatov. He moves a flashlight around and then meshes images in Photoshop to make this effect.
Macro photos of snowflakes popped up all over my newsfeed last month. These were shot by one Alexey Kljatov. Evidently, in Moscow when you decide to take up macro photography you don’t run down to 42ndStreet Photo and drop a grand or more on a new camera with interchangeable lenses. You buy a used Russian-made lens from an old film camera (currently available on ebay for about $25) and tape it to your decidedly down-range Canon Powershot, using a chunk of wood as a stabilizer and a black garbage bag to keep out light.
That’s an old Russian-made SLR lens taped to an ‘extension bellows’ taped to a Canon Powershot, all stabilized with a piece of wood.
Kljatov’s snowflakes are detailed, luminous, and, most of all, fascinating. A similar hack he did to take telescopic shots of the moon rendered weirdly wavery but inviting images of our planet’s closet friend. When he’s not outside freezing, Kljatov does a series of layered still lifes using a handheld flashlight and lots of hours on his computer.
The moon, shot by Alexey Kljatov. In this instance, he used rubber bands to affix a telephoto lens to his Canon Powershot.
Kljatov’s camera is a 2007-vintage, mid-range Canon Powershot. In fat, sassy America, those cameras (if they’re still around) are used for nothing more than shooting snapshots of the passing scene.
Every once in a while I stop at my local art store to ponder the locked case of $250 watercolor brushes by the counter. Is it really necessary to spend so much money in pursuit of creativity? Or is creativity to be found in the exact opposite of such luxury?

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!