When American photographer Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) made what might well have been the first photos of snowflakes in January 1885, he couldn’t immediately share them with the world through a 19th-century version of Instagram or Tumblr. But today, 129 years later, that is precisely what Connecticut-based photographer Greg Miller has done.
Extreme weather routinely inspires people to post photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, deluging social platforms with countless, similar-looking winter landscapes. Miller told TIME he considered simply taking photos of [the 2014] snowstorm from his window, but then noticed there were flakes landing right in front of him. After trying to focus using only the camera, he thought to use his daughter’s jeweler’s loupe—a device that magnifies details—to simulate the effect of a macro lens, which is traditionally used to document small objects. The result is a series of pictures that capture the uniquely delicate formations of each flake.
Miller even attempted the same method with a point-and-shoot camera, but found that it was actually harder than with an iPhone, with its small lens than can be placed right up against a surface.
Known more for his large-format photographs, Miller said that shooting with the iPhone was a little more relaxed than using his usual 8×10 camera and lights.
“I was kind of obsessed with it for a couple of hours,” he said. “Whenever the photographic process takes me and leads me to this place, I sort of lose myself.”
Miller said he hopes to continue experimenting with his iPhone camera, but it will never replace his 8×10. “The reasons for grabbing the SLR are shifting,” he said, “but the reasons for shooting with an 8×10 aren’t moving, because they’re deeper and bigger.”
Greg Miller is a photographer based in Connecticut. Follow him on Instagram at @gregmillerfoto.
Tanner Curtis is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tannercurtis.
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