Engineering a Camera Lens from 10,000-Year-Old Ice


This experimental photographer molded ice from a 10,000-year-old glacier to create stunning, one-of-a-kind photos


Do you consider yourself a photography lover or technophile? Modern-day photography dates back to the early 1800s. You’d have to go wayback a few more years to see the beginnings of this natural camera lens.

Mathieu Stern, an experimental photographer, used glacial ice from Iceland to create his unique camera lens. For two years, he considered that if glass could focus light, ice should too.

Don’t believe it? Check out the footage above (you’ll see a clip shot with Mathieu’s ice lens).

In order to bring his idea to life, Mathieu knew he needed pure ice to make the lens work. He travelled 3,000 km to Iceland’s famous “iceberg beach” (Jökulsárlón or Diamond Beach), where he found 10,000-year-old ice.


Finding the IceEngineering a Camera Lens from 10,000-Year-Old Ice

The ice he used came from icebergs floating to shore from a giant glacier that formed during the last glacial period between 115,000 – 11,700 years ago. However, an ancient iceberg doesn’t guarantee pure ice. Most icebergs contain sediments, dust, gasses and other particles picked up from land before the end of the last ice age.

While anyone else might have just grabbed an ice cube from their freezer, Mathieu knew that it takes 10,000 years for Icelandic glaciers to purify the particles and gasses trapped inside the ice.


Creating the Lens

He brought with him an ice ball maker, which he fashioned to shape the ice into a oval lens. Because the ice was so cold, each lens took 45 minutes to shape. After 5 hours and four unsuccessfully shaped lens, Mathieu made one last attempt to mold the ice. This time he was successful, however he had little time to spare.

The lifespan of one lens is just 1 minute before it melts. So, he quickly placed the lens in the 3D printed lens holder he created and quickly snapped a few photos.

Amazing, right? While the moment barely lasted a minute, the captured memories and the blurry photos will last a lifetime. And isn’t that why we fell in love in love with photography in the first place?

Take a look at some of Mathieu’s incredible ice photos:


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Adam Beck

Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions | A Marketing graduate from the Miami University, Farmer School of Business in Oxford Ohio, Adam has years of experience in marketing and design for a variety of industries.