Watch a 3D virtual fly-through of Yellowknife’s Snowcastle

A still from Mike Lee's rendering of the 2023 Snowcastle
A still from Mike Lee's rendering of the 2023 Snowcastle.
Explore a model of the Snowcastle created by stitching together photos.

The layout of 2023’s Snowcastle on Yellowknife Bay is now captured for all time – not just in photos and video, but in a 3D model.

Mike Lee took his daughter past the castle the day after it closed and, with nobody else around, decided the time was right to spend around an hour gathering images of the castle and its snow sculptures.

He then took the images home and used his computer to turn them into a model, a process known as photogrammetry – extracting 3D information from still images, often with the intention of creating models for video games.

The result is a stunning and perfectly accurate depiction of the castle as it existed for this year’s month-long Snowkings’ Winter Festival, Yellowknife’s annual celebration held on the ice outside the city.



This fly-through focuses on the sculptures.

No drone was needed for the work, just a monopod “holding the camera up 10 feet in the air, pointing down, to get the different perspectives,” Lee said.

He began working in photogrammetry while living in Tokyo, where he operated a documentary film business. He and his partner moved to Inuvik four years ago before relocating to Yellowknife, where he’s looking to establish something similar.

Lee hopes the technique could be useful in modelling some of the North’s cultural artefacts.

“I know the government is doing stuff. I’m thinking smaller-scale terrestrial objects, interiors, buildings,” he said, giving the example of Inuvik’s Igloo Church, the interior of which he has modelled in a way that would allow people to explore it with a virtual reality headset.



“I think it’d be great for someone, say, in Tokyo, to put on a headset and experience what it’s like in Inuvik at the Igloo Church, somewhere where they may never be able to go,” Lee said.

“Or modelling Pilots’ Monument, being able to look down from Pilots’ Monument at Yellowknife Bay and the houseboats. I think that would be pretty cool.

“I’m interested in preserving or modelling experiences in a way that’s different to just pictures and video.”

You can follow Lee’s work on Instagram and Vimeo.