Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A world in a bit of ice

with 48 comments

Ice on Branch Tip 9439

Click for better clarity.

When I spent two hours out in the cold at Great Hills Park on the morning of January 7th, I found this little world in the flattened globe of ice that had formed at the tip of a slender branch. Previously posted pictures from that wintry session showed ice forming around a fallen tree and icicles hanging from a cliff.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2014 at 6:02 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Une merveille!


    January 23, 2014 at 6:08 AM

  2. OH, such a beautiful tiny marble. Your work and eye are amazing.


    January 23, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    • Gracias, Georgette. From the end-on view that you see in the photograph, the little “world” looks spherical, but in fact the ice had more the conventional shape of a teardrop, though more flattened along the axis of symmetry, with the tapering part holding the ice to the tip of the branch.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM

  3. With apologies to Blake, I guess this augurs spring innocence? Lovely capture.

    Marcia Levy

    January 23, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    • Ice drop ice drop, freezing bright
      In the forest’s morning light.
      What immobile camera’s eye
      Could frame thy wintry symmetry?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 7:08 AM

  4. This is a fantastic shot!

    Alex Autin

    January 23, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    • As much as I don’t like the cold, I pushed myself to take pictures of things not normally seen here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 7:11 AM

      • It looks like you may get another chance to get some icy photos later today and tonight.

        Alex Autin

        January 23, 2014 at 8:20 AM

        • You’re right. The forecast says possible sleet and the overnight low is supposed to be around 26°. I can’t remember a colder winter in Austin than this one, so I’ve got to take advantage of the rare opportunity for ice.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2014 at 9:12 AM

  5. Absolutely amazing!!


    January 23, 2014 at 6:53 AM

  6. I like that picture very much. Nice capture.

    Jim in IA

    January 23, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    • If I can change one word in the reply that I just finished writing for the previous comment, I’ll say that this is something I’d have a lot more access to if I lived in Iowa rather than Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 7:19 AM

      • Would you go out in -8˚ temps to get the shot? Better wait until it is warmer.

        Jim in IA

        January 23, 2014 at 7:25 AM

        • I might venture out, but for a shorter time than the two hours I spent in the cold here that morning, and I’d dress even more warmly.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 23, 2014 at 7:35 AM

  7. Lovely photo. Sometimes beauty can be found in the smallest of things, like a drop of ice at the end of a slender branch.

    Mind Margins

    January 23, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    • Thanks, Angela. I’m in accord with what you say about beauty sometimes being found in the smallest of things, and the majority of pictures I show in this blog were taken with a macro lens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      • And I love macro photography and things taken down to their smallest particles. I’m definitely more of a detail person.

        Mind Margins

        January 23, 2014 at 9:18 AM

  8. This is gorgeous and so unusual! I love your eye for macro photography, it’s very elegant.

    Where God Takes Me

    January 23, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating it, Vivian. I’m fond of close-ups and abstractions, both of which come into play here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 9:43 AM

  9. Now this would make a beautiful pendant. Looks like tiger’s eye and amber with blue glass – well captured Steve 🙂


    January 23, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    • Thanks, Jude, for suggesting a pendant, something that hadn’t occurred to me. The branch whose tip the ice formed on was literally pendant, i.e. hanging almost straight down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 10:09 AM

  10. Superb! to me it looks like a gas cloud in nearby star cluster M-117. Neato!


    January 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    • I extrapolated from a disk of ice to a terrestrial globe, but you, David, expanded into the stars.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2014 at 4:08 PM

  11. A world in a bit of amber. This is a story about tiny flowers embedded in fossilized amber. I thought you and others might enjoy it.
    [audio src="http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/media/2013-2014/qq-2014-01-11_02.mp3" /]

    Source: Quirks and Quarks with Bob MacDonald on Canadian Broadcasting.

    Jim in IA

    January 23, 2014 at 3:49 PM

  12. Exciting image


    January 24, 2014 at 12:50 PM

  13. Perhaps as long as four or five years ago I came across some photographers who were using a sort of “crystal ball” for taking photos. I remember being impressed by the beauty of the images, but I don’t remember any of the photographers’ names, or the name of the device, or whether it was some sort of specialized lens. In any event, this reminds me very much of the sort of images they came up with. It’s beautiful.

    It reminds me of photos taken of the earth from space, too – probably because of the colors.

    You may not have found amber, but you’ve been very close to Liquidambar styraciflua, also known as American Sweetgum. If I’m reading things right, it’s native to Texas, and as close to you as Lee County. Another site notes that the name Liquidambar was given by a Spanish naturalist named Hernandez as a reference to its aromatic gum, which he described as “liquid amber”.


    January 24, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    • Perhaps this is the kind of photography you came across:

      Autumn upside down

      That can be fun, and I’m on the lookout for that kind of distortion, too, but in natural phenomena like drops of liquid, bits of clear ice, and reflections in creeks or ponds.

      I’ve photographed sweetgums in east Texas and, more recently, Arkansas. You’re correct that the species isn’t native in Austin, but people have planted an occasional one here and there for the fall foliage. A few years ago I drove past one at just the right time and stopped to take pictures of its colorful leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 24, 2014 at 1:27 PM

  14. Great abstract. The black background…I’m guessing you put it there? Love this.


    January 25, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    • If you check out point 4 in About My Techniques you’ll see how I did this. In particular, I lined up the ice with the cliff on the far side of the creek, which was in the shadows. The area in the photograph outside the ice came out a very dark gray, almost black, and then I darkened it the extra little bit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2014 at 9:22 AM

  15. This is very beautiful! It looks like one of those glass paper weights. The contrast in colors I especially like. Very awesome capture. Thank you for sharing.

    And props to you for conducting such a long session in the gold. I’m thinking about venturing out today myself. Temps are supposed to be in the 20s although wind chills expected -20-30. I’ve been watching the wind blowing snow around like a blizzard. Nice work. You represent macro well.



    January 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    • Yes, I can see it as a glass paperweight, although in reality it was too small to hold down much of anything—except our imaginations.

      The temperature was in the 20s when I ventured out that morning, but we didn’t have the strong winds you’re expecting. I don’t think I could have borne up very long if there had been wind, which in addition to chilling my body would have moved my subjects around and made it hard for me to photograph them. More power to you if you do head out into the cold.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      • Gosh, that is incredible how small that really is. Every time I see it I immediately think paperweight. Love how you captured what look like stress fractures (? for lack of a better description if one is so needed) on the surface of it.

        Thanks for the encouragement! It’s looking like the sun is blazing a bit from behind the clouds and the winds have chilled out, now might be a good time to get moving!

        Have a good day,


        January 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

  16. And speaking of reflections, this one is remarkable!

    Susan Scheid

    January 26, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    • I’m not sure, but this may be refraction rather than reflection. Whichever it is, I like the effect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      • Had to remind myself of the difference, but the sad things is, even having done so, I can’t apply it here. So, with you, I say, yup, I like the effect.

        Susan Scheid

        January 27, 2014 at 7:48 PM

  17. Wild. This is one incredible shot, Steve!


    January 27, 2014 at 8:16 PM

  18. Wonderful observation and image, Steve. Are you hidden amongst that galaxy of bubbles?
    It resembles a Josh Simpson world. http://www.megaplanet.com/gallery2/v/planets/

    Steve Gingold

    January 31, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    • As far as I know, I’m not reflected in there (the way I have been in some other photographs over the years, as you probably have been, too).

      Thanks for the link to Josh Simpson, whom I don’t think I’ve heard of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2014 at 12:08 PM

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