OGDEN — There’s one artisan featured this month in Ogden’s art scene who doesn’t feel comfortable being called an artist.
Doug Wewer of Eden is a snowflake photographer who also is a Christian. He gives the real credit to God for the beauty he captures.
"Snowflakes are among the most delicate and beautiful illustrations of God's creativity," he often says. That statement is centrally located on his website, desertsnowphotography.com.
The Eden resident said an accident led him to become one of a few photographers in the world to specialize in snowflakes.
“I still kind of chuckle when people call me an artist,” he said. “I don’t think too many engineers are artists.”
A U.S. Forest Service civil engineer, Wewer was conducting a class for avalanche awareness when he realized he could artistically photograph snowflakes using specialized equipment.
The 38-year-old said taking intricate pictures of snow is important in predicting where avalanches may occur. He said he looks for layers of less-stable snow as an indication for concern.
“I got a snowflake in that batch of photos,” he said. “It kind of just happened.”
Seven years and thousands of photographs later, Wewer has built a name for himself for snowflake photography.
One of his favorite snowflake photographs also came about by accident last year.
The photo, which shows a symmetrical crystal snowflake, was taken from a “snowboard” his 4-year-old daughter painted. The image is over wood grains unevenly covered with a mix of blue and green, with some red flecks.
“Truth be told, it’s not the most perfect image of a snowflake but overall, it’s my favorite,” he said. He noted the grain of the wood and the other aspects of the photo that give it depth.
The image was captured within minutes of his first use of the multi-colored board, he said. Now, using the board is one of his favorite ways to capture snowflakes.
Much happens to snowflakes as they fall to earth, Wewer said. Most often, he said they become broken or otherwise unusable for his photographs. He said he captures hundreds of photographs in order to get the few usable ones he adds to his collection.
While he stumbled into his art form, his work is no less appreciated than that of other artists in the area.
Pat Poce, executive director of the Eccles Community Art Center, said he was inspired by having Wewer’s work on display there until recently.
“His photography is really intriguing and his technique is interesting,” Poce said. “It is clean and crisp and clear. It gives a different light on a way to introduce photography and the style of work he does.”
Poce spoke of Wewer’s style of primarily printing his images onto metal.
“His work is transformed onto the metal, not framed,” Poce said. “It is clean and crisp, which lends a different flavor to the form.”
The snowflake photography is a good representation of the area, Poce said.
“People can look at it as part of our surroundings,” Poce said. “It is very interesting.”
Constantly experimenting with new techniques, Wewer said he uses his engineering skills to customize or build his own equipment.
The snowflakes in Wewer’s photographs are magnified many times. Some of the smallest would easily fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen, he said. Some of the largest he’s seen are almost the size of a dime.
Priding himself in keeping his work authentic, Wewer said he doesn’t manipulate any of his images with computer software.
Wewer spoke to the Standard-Examiner while setting up his new exhibit this week in the Myra Powell Gallery at Ogden’s Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave. in Ogden.
Helping him was his mother, Renee Wewer, who was visiting from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Wewer was raised.
The two laughed about Wewer’s lifelong love for snow.
“He used to pile it up this high,” Renee Wewer said, pointing to her thigh.
Wewer gave free snow shoveling services to neighbors — provided he could take the snow home with him, he said. He grew up making ski hills on his lawn.
Now as a ski patrol member and avalanche professional, he has looked at countless snow crystals through a variety of lenses.
When conditions are right, Wewer can be found studying and photographing snowflakes around Ogden.
Wewer is glad his Forest Service work affords him flexible hours. He’s often been late because he was studying snowflakes.