Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The ice storm of 2007 — the second day

with 37 comments

As you heard and saw last time, on January 17, 2007, Austin had an ice storm. The next morning, 11 years ago today, the land remained frozen. The roads were a little better, so I ventured beyond my neighborhood and ended up at a property on the northeast corner of Burnet Rd. and Wells Branch Parkway.* There I spent some three hours suffering in the cold for the rare chance in such a warm climate as ours to record plants transformed by ice. The photograph above shows a southern dewberry, Rubus trivialis. Below is a colony of bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus.

Look at the patterns on the ice in this close view of a bushy bluestem seed head bent sideways:

And there were branching jeweled abstractions of ice and light and lens:



* That property, where I went photographing in the years before and after the ice storm, finally got built on, I think in 2015. I’ll always see it wild, as it was when I roamed there.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2018 at 5:00 AM

37 Responses

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  1. Awesome pics.


    January 18, 2018 at 5:23 AM

  2. Incredible photos. The one showing the patterns in the ice is stunning. As are the tiny diamonds.


    January 18, 2018 at 6:30 AM

    • Thanks, Jude. I took photographs revealing the same kind of patterning in the ice encasing other native plants. I decided bot to include any of those here because I didn’t want to be redundant and have one image steal impact from another.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 8:25 AM

  3. so beautiful-


    January 18, 2018 at 6:32 AM

  4. Such variety! The patterns in the ice surrounding the bluestem seed look remarkably like some of the lichens you’ve shown in the past. I love anything sparkly, so the last photo’s particularly delightful, but the dewberry, with its color, is compelling.


    January 18, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    • Yay, variety! I see from my archive that I took more than 500 pictures over the three hours I was out on that second day. You can imagine my excitement as I experimented with all the shapes and patterns and textures the ice had made available. It remains a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as no similar storm has visited us here since then, nor had any before. We’ve had snow every so often, but not that magical coating of ice.

      That’s an interesting connection you made to the lichen. I wouldn’t have thought of it. The dewberry photograph certainly gives you the sparkle you desire, along with varied shades of red and brown in the canes and leaflets.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 8:54 AM

  5. 3 hours well-spent. I admit, it is fun to see the interesting things ice can do as it interacts with the natural elements. I’ll bet you were glad to return home that day! And I’ll bet you’re glad you spent that time recording the site. I’m sorry to hear your stomping grounds keep getting built on.


    January 18, 2018 at 8:03 AM

    • After a couple of my three-hour stints out in the cold to play with ice (mostly from frostweed), my feet have gotten so cold I think I was close to getting frostbite. Yesterday—you’ll see a couple of pictures tomorrow—I wore three pairs of socks rather than the usual two inside my rubber boots, plus a thermal undershirt and a shirt and a sweater inside my winter jacket; I felt quite comfy, even with temperatures between 22° at the beginning and 30° at the end.

      Yes, this was another of the 20 or so sites now partly or more often completely lost to me in recent years. At least my pictures are a historical record of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 9:04 AM

  6. The wild areas are always the best to find nature’s artistry. Isn’t there something lovely about the silence after an ice storm (no electricity buzz and traffic at a standstill), and only the cracking, tinkling and splashing of shattering ice? You’ve captured some beautiful images here, Steve. I couldn’t pick a favorite… they’re all stunning.


    January 18, 2018 at 8:25 AM

    • Oh, the silence! It’s one of the things I remember from childhood when I would go out to shovel the sidewalk in front of our house after the snow stopped falling. The only thing breaking the enveloping silence was the repeated scraping of the shovel’s metal across the cement surface of the sidewalk.

      I could’ve shown more pictures from the second day of the ice storm (and the first as well). It took a decade to get these out into the world. Maybe I’ll post some more next year on the 12th anniversary of the ice storm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 8:33 AM

      • Please do post the photos! I’m truly enjoying this series. I have many of my own from 2010 and 2013 ice storms. One must really get out and brave the weather to take advantage of such shoots. The ice changes rapidly.


        January 18, 2018 at 8:54 AM

        • I’ll be glad to fulfill your request—if I remember! A year’s a long time. Yes, braving the weather is an occupational hazard. As much as my body hates cold, I put up with it for the chance—limited this far south—to photograph snow and ice.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 18, 2018 at 9:29 AM

  7. Wonderful! Fantastical scenes – – a vacant lot becomes a Tiffany showroom.

    Robert Parker

    January 18, 2018 at 8:33 AM

    • The cleverness of a comment like “a vacant lot becomes a Tiffany showroom” makes me wonder whether you’ve considered a career in marketing or public relations. You’ve got what it takes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 9:32 AM

  8. That second one, the close-up of the bluestem seed head, is fascinating for its artistic detail. The word ‘fractal’ comes to mind, though yours is no snowflake. I took a picture (with my iPhone) of a puddle of water that froze overnight. There are no concrete cracks or seams in the frame. Isn’t it weird how there are dry patches resembling triangles?


    January 18, 2018 at 9:00 AM

    • Plenty of other plants showed the same kind of patterns in the ice covering them. I have no idea what caused those little plaques to form on the surface. All I know is that I was thrilled with the rare chance to record them.

      The picture you linked to is so geometric. The linearity of some of the ice there reminds me of what I saw yesterday in the films of water on the surface of creek that had begun to freeze. Ice seems to favor lines. I’ll bet people have studied the way(s) that ice forms.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 9:51 AM

  9. Stunning examples of nature’s majesty.


    January 18, 2018 at 9:03 AM

    • The sub-freezing cold can be stunning too, literally, but we endure it for the sake of the majesty you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 9:33 AM

  10. So very beautiful – gems all of them. The first and the last one like diamonds and rubies.


    January 18, 2018 at 3:19 PM

  11. These make up for the pitiful snow (only one inch) and low single digits this past week. We have had severe cold and windchill factors here. Thank you for sharing the beautiful side of freezing air and ice! BTW, I’m with Lori on choosing a favorite, but will admit to going back to the first image and gazing at it several times.


    January 18, 2018 at 9:40 PM

    • Sorry you’ve had to endure so much cold and wind without getting pretty snow and ice in return. I’m beginning to think I’ll never again see an ice show in Austin like the one 11 years ago. In addition to the four pictures shown here from the second day of ice, I took plenty of others. I couldn’t choose a favorite, either. The first and last one in this post have a jewel-like quality, no question.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 11:04 PM

  12. Beautiful captures, Mother Nature’s artwork!


    January 18, 2018 at 9:51 PM

    • Thanks, Donna. I had a great (if cold) time taking lots of pictures on the two days when the ice encased so many things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2018 at 11:10 PM

  13. These are awesome !


    January 19, 2018 at 2:00 AM

  14. Wonderful icy images .. the last one is a stunner Steve 🙂


    January 24, 2018 at 3:57 PM

  15. You’ve had an ice storm there, and no still no snow up here, at 800 ft elevation where my farm is. Beautiful works of art, these ice photos!

    Lavinia Ross

    January 28, 2018 at 10:31 AM

    • You can imagine how happy the photographer in me was to be able to spend two days playing with those coatings of ice. Unfortunately 2007 hasn’t come again, so to speak.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2018 at 10:49 AM

    • By the way, Austin’s official elevation is 489 ft., so we’re even closer to sea level than you are.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2018 at 10:51 AM

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