Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Frostweed ice: toward abstraction

with 43 comments

The extrusion of ice by frostweed (Verbesina virginica) is a great natural phenomenon. Austin’s temperature stayed mostly below freezing from the morning of January 1st, when I went down to Great Hills Park to take my first photographs of the new year, through this morning, when I returned for a second round of frostweed pictures, even more than two days earlier. Frostweed ice offers an opportunity for photographic abstractions, and that’s what you’re seeing here. Unlike the picture you saw last time, which involved flash, today’s images were made by natural light, which necessitated wider apertures that produced a softer feel.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 3, 2018 at 6:00 PM

43 Responses

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  1. Tipping out of the bosque for a gulp of interaction with society and cyberspace, I’m in the cloud forest – 7 hours from the poza…. it’s refreshing to see these beautiful images of frostweed, a bonus to those cold snaps that seem to be nipping a lot this year! Will be catching up over the next few days! happy new year!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 3, 2018 at 7:04 PM

  2. Lovely photos of this curious phenomenon, Steve. You managed to capture the soft look of what I would guess is not soft.

    Jet Eliot

    January 3, 2018 at 7:22 PM

    • Actually the soft look accords with reality in this case. Unlike the hard ice of icicles and the surfaces of frozen bodies of water, the extruded frostweed ice is delicate and apt to break and crumble if touched more than very lightly. In other years I’ve likened frostweed ice to phyllo pastry, except it’s cold, of course.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2018 at 9:34 PM

  3. I found this article very helpful about this plant and the process.

    Jim R

    January 3, 2018 at 8:16 PM

  4. I absolutely love the first one. All are terrific.⛷

    Sherry Felix

    January 3, 2018 at 8:45 PM

    • Your mention of the first one made me suddenly think of it as akin to a futurist or similar sculpture from a century ago. I’m keen on abstraction so I was in my element this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2018 at 9:44 PM

  5. Just amazing. I would never know about frostweed if not for your photos and blog. Fact is, there are a lot of places I’ve ‘visited’ through your lenses. Thank you.


    January 3, 2018 at 8:56 PM

    • You’re most welcome. I worked for years as a teacher, so it’s second nature (pun) to tell people about the curiosities in nature I come across and learn about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2018 at 9:49 PM

  6. The second photo makes me think of spun sugar. The word gossamer comes to mind as I delight in the other two photos.


    January 4, 2018 at 5:38 AM

    • You just made me realize I’ve never sampled any frostweed ice to see if it has a particular taste. You also made me think of taking some maple syrup with me the next time I go down to photograph frostweed ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2018 at 6:50 AM

  7. The first photo is my favorite, by far. I imagine the stalk dancing, surrounded by diaphanous veils.


    January 4, 2018 at 5:51 AM

    • An ice dancer. Do you think your preference might also come from the first photograph having some parts in focus and others out?

      The third picture makes me think of a white wing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 4, 2018 at 6:55 AM

      • I did have a passing thought that the photo as a whole resembled a corps de ballet. Of course the ballet would be Swan Lake, which pairs nicely with your vision of a wing.


        January 4, 2018 at 6:58 AM

        • Now why didn’t I think of Swan Lake? I wonder if someone could choreograph a fantasy ballet that includes a sped-up version of frostweed plants extruding ice. The printed program would have to explain the phenomenon to the audience and should include a couple of photographs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 4, 2018 at 7:04 AM

  8. nature’s artistry at its finest. beautiful

    Noel Hartem

    January 5, 2018 at 6:48 AM

  9. It’s fascinating stuff, up close, Steve. 🙂


    January 5, 2018 at 10:12 AM

    • It sure is, Jo, and that’s why I braved 80 minutes out in the cold on Wednesday, often on the ground, after two hours of the same on Monday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2018 at 10:37 AM

  10. Absolutely fabulous, Steve! The first one’s a gem. x


    January 5, 2018 at 11:15 AM

    • Thanks, Dina. You who are from the lands of the north know how much fun it is for a photographer to play with ice formations.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2018 at 11:21 AM

      • Unfortunately, due to global warming, my northern parts are less wintery each year. It’s absolutely devastating. All the animals with winter fur are suffering as the snow is missing. I suppose in a few years they are all gone, including the polar bears. Emigrated to colder regions. Good night to you Steve. The wild geese are flying over the house right now, normally they are fast asleep at this time …


        January 5, 2018 at 6:10 PM

  11. This is very cool (no pun intended) – I’m going to have to see if we have this in Virginia


    January 7, 2018 at 12:23 PM

  12. Oh Steve, these are awesome!!! and YES — this is the “wood shaving” look I was talking about! 🙂


    January 8, 2018 at 11:48 AM

    • Good, I’m glad to hear that’s what you meant. Frostweed is a great provider of ice “shavings” and of inspiration for abstract photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 8, 2018 at 11:54 AM

  13. I love these, Steve! Are you familiar with this?
    We see it around here sometimes. The first time, I was so thrilled. Actually, any time I see it, I’m thrilled! 🙂


    January 14, 2018 at 12:35 PM

    • Thanks for that link. No, I hadn’t heard of hair ice, which strikes me as pretty similar to the ice produced by frostweed. Your as fortunate that hair ice forms in your area as I am that frostweed does its ice trick in mine. “Thrilled” is the right word.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2018 at 1:24 PM

  14. Indeed, I had never heard of frostweed before visiting “these parts.” A remarkable plant, which I am glad you remark upon from time to time.

    Susan Scheid

    January 22, 2018 at 6:30 PM

    • I lived in Austin for over 2 decades before I learned about frostweed, and then it took me several years to finally see the ice phenomenon in person. Now it’s the old reliable ice treat I look forward to each winter, especially since we rarely have “regular” ice this far south.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2018 at 8:39 PM

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