Craig Ward’s microscopic ice trees

If no two snowflakes are ever alike, the same goes for Craig Ward’s electromagnetic ice trees. His new video for Ryan Teague’s atmospheric song, Cascades, makes for a beautiful intersection between science and art. Cascades follows the growth of intricate ice trees from the tips of electrically charged needles, along electromagnetic field lines, and finally to their eventual surrender under the force of gravity…

If no two snowflakes are ever alike, the same goes for Craig Ward’s electromagnetic ice trees. His new video for Ryan Teague’s atmospheric song, Cascades, makes for a beautiful intersection between science and art. Cascades follows the growth of intricate ice trees from the tips of electrically charged needles, along electromagnetic field lines, and finally to their eventual surrender under the force of gravity.

Cascades is Craig Ward’s first piece of moving image work. Principally known as a typographer, CR readeers will remember his May 2010 CR Annual cover, the image for which he grew in an immunology lab.

The Cascades video was shot over four days in a basement, with the help of biochemist Linden Gledhill. For the science part, Linden constructed a chamber containing layers of polystyrene and plexiglass in which to shoot.

The ice structures themselves are only a fraction of a millimetre across, starting their growth on the tip of an electrically charged needle, and then following the electromagnetic field lines generated by the 2000V charge. “The dancing, contorting trees you see at the beginning of the video are ice structures – most no more than a fraction of a millimetre across – which were grown on the tip of an electrically charged, motorised needle,” Ward says. “The individual fronds follow the paths of electromagnetic field lines generated by the charge of 2000 Volts coursing into the needle. When the trees became heavy enough for gravity to take its toll, they would begin to grow downward, bending and twisting as they went, to eventually meet with fronds of frost that had grown upwards from a chilled metal base along the very same field lines.”

Despite spending four days continuously shooting, only seven minutes of footage was generated in total. “The rotating structure you see throughout the film is in fact a superfine glass capillary attached to a motor. While the tree structures grew relatively quickly, the spindle shots would take in the region of six or seven hours each (making just one or two rotations in that time) and would mostly be left overnight with a Canon 5D firing every 30 seconds.”

Craig Ward credits the inspiration for the video to his grandma’s jewellery box:

“When I first heard Cascades isolated from the rest of the album (Field Drawings), winter was very much in the air and the sharp, twinkling notes called to mind at once falling snow, but also a memory from my childhood of a broken jewellery box that belonged to my grandma. The partnerless ballerina in the centre of the box would rotate tremulously to a sparse and lonely clockwork soundtrack that echoed through the over-wound springs in the base.”

Credits
Directed and produced by Craig Ward
Director of photography: Jason Tozer
Crystal cultivation, experimentation and photographic consultant: Linden Gledhill
Editing by Jeremy Maneval at Consulate, NYC
Colour by Gabriel at Consulate, NYC
With special thanks to Matthew Flaherty

The video can also be viewed on our iPad app, along with some behind-the-scenes footage.

 

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CR in Print
The June issue of Creative Review features an interview with the editors of new book Pretty Ugly: Visual Rebellion in Graphic Design. Plus a profile on multi-award-winning director Johnny Kelly, a look at the latest techniques in movie marketing, the mission to cross CGI’s Uncanny Valley, a review of the Barbican’s Bauhaus show, logos by artists and much more. Plus, in Monograph this month, we look behind the scenes at the making of an amazing installation for Guinness, carved from solid wood.

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