Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another way in which our water still remembers how to freeze

with 8 comments

Yesterday you saw the sideways way the surface of the water pulls and folds and stretches on the rare occasions when it freezes in our creeks. Another sort of freezing that we rarely see in Austin is the kind that turns the dripping-dropping movement of cold water into textured downward columns made of ice. Sustained temperatures in the 20s from the night of January 15th through the morning of the 17th did the trick. Both of today’s photographs show you icicles that had freeze-dripped down from the roof of the picturesque limestone overhang in the southern part of Great Hills Park.

The first picture, taken with a wide-angle lens at an aperture of f/7.1, gives you an overview (nay, underview) of part of the limestone and adjacent woods. Call the picture pretty in a conventional way.

In the service of a different vision, from about the same place and aiming in about the same direction I focused on one icicle with a 100mm macro lens set at its broadest aperture of f/2.8 to produce the second photograph. The sunny light in the distance apparently influenced the camera’s sensor to register the ice as bluer than people’s eyes see it under the same conditions. The image as a whole may seem abstract and even unrealistic, but there are times when reality is overrated; this could be one of those times.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 20, 2018 at 4:47 AM

8 Responses

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  1. Interesting. Out water has good training in freezing, do that all the time. 😉


    January 20, 2018 at 6:35 AM

    • Yes, your Norwegian water is well trained in turning to icicles in winter. It’s a struggle for the water in Austin, where the temperature when I woke up at 6:15 this morning was already 55°F (13°C).

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2018 at 6:43 AM

  2. I’m still in awe that anything freezes that far south. I like the perspective of both images.


    January 20, 2018 at 10:44 AM

    • It’s common in Austin for the overnight temperature to dip a little below freezing several times each winter. Normally those dips are quickly followed in the morning by temperatures that rise well above freezing, sometimes by as much as 30°. What’s unusual is for the temperature to stay below freezing long enough for water to turn to ice. That’s why when we had the day-and-a-half freeze this week, I had to go out looking for freezing creeks and icicles. Most winters, the only ice I get to photograph is frostweed ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2018 at 11:12 AM

  3. The colors in that second photo are phenomenal — in every sense of the word.

    Out of curiosity, have you tried cropping it at the bottom so that the tip of the icicle isn’t shown, and the two pink-ish, out of focus areas are more evenly matched? For me, it not only increased the level of abstraction, it also created a very odd sensation. With the icicle as a thin blue line bisecting the image, I feel as though I’m looking through a crack in some sort of rock toward a deep, blue ocean. It’s quite an amazing illusion.


    January 20, 2018 at 10:33 PM

    • The second photograph is about color in a way the first, so realistic, never could be. I hadn’t checked to see what cropping off the bottom of the image would do. At your suggestion, I scrolled the image down just now so the bottom part wouldn’t show. That makes it easier to see the “reversal” you mentioned, with the icicle becoming a crack through which to see an ocean. As I conceived the image, the bulb at the tip of the icicle repeated, vertically, the horizontal and roughly elliptical out-of-focus bright area behind it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2018 at 10:07 AM

  4. The limestone icicles are surreal:)

    The Thrifty Campers

    January 21, 2018 at 6:16 PM

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