Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ice is nice, part 1

with 27 comments

So on January 10th we had one of our rare snowfalls, from which you’ve seen a bunch of pictures. You may recall that the temperature hovered near freezing, which meant that some of the snow turned to liquid even as it landed. As the next day wore on, a lot of the snow had melted, much of the ground was visible, and I figured that after five hours of taking pictures on the previous day I wasn’t going to find more to photograph. On January 12th I had second thoughts and wished I’d gone out on the day after the snowfall for another look. With that in mind, even though it was now two days after the snowfall, I headed out again to see if I could find any interesting traces of snow or ice that had managed to survive in shady places—and find some I did.

In one shaded area in Great Hills Park I discovered that thin sheets of ice had formed close to the ground. Most importantly for my purposes, I found that I could slowly lift up a small section of ice and it would come away in a piece that was irregularly shaped yet didn’t break apart. Over and over I did my light lifting, each time facing toward the sun and holding the little panel erect against a background of shaded trees so that backlighting would reveal details in the ice. The arcs in the lower part of the first photograph are impressions that the ice had picked up from plant parts beneath it. In the second photograph, sunlight passing through a liquifying bit of ice created a sunburst. Do you see it? It’s hard to appreciate at this small picture size but you can click the thumbnail below for a closer look and for the revelation that the starburst, like many stars that astronomers find, is actually twins. The enlargement also reveals smaller starbursts.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2021 at 4:31 AM

27 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Very interesting. Abstract forms.

    Alessandra Chaves

    January 29, 2021 at 7:32 AM

    • The pictures I took of the ice that afternoon are different from any I recall ever taking before, so aside from the images themselves I’m glad for the novelty. The black and white is right up your alley.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2021 at 8:17 AM

  2. Your post with these fascinating photos of ice crystals taught me a new approach to photograph snow and ice. I often took pictures of the curious shapes ice can form, especially when they reveal other-worldly creatures. But I never lifted a thin sheet of ice like you did. On our next outing, I will look for an opportunity to repeat your experiment, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    January 29, 2021 at 8:55 AM

    • Good. It’ll be interesting to compare results. Given how rarely we get ice down here, you’ll have a lot more chances to play with it than I’ve had or will have.

      Here’s a tip. I was holding the ice up with my bare left hand (my gloves were too thick and cumbersome to give me the dexterity I needed), and my left thumb was beginning to ache from prolonged contact with the ice. Eventually I realized I could use the edge of my handkerchief to hold the ice, and that was enough of an insulator to keep my thumb and fingers from freezing. You can bring some small pieces of cloth or something similar with you if you plan to hand-hold ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2021 at 9:08 AM

  3. Ice IS nice and so are those fabulous photos! The top one looks like a whale, bird’s eye view, complete with flukes! Was that a fluke?


    January 29, 2021 at 11:04 AM

  4. Jack Frost and Old Man Winter come up with some unique designs. I enjoyed the photos, Steve.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 29, 2021 at 11:23 AM

  5. I clicked, and I saw…and I love the way that small piece of ice mimics the cosmos beyond our little planet. Great work, Steve! Science and poetry.


    January 29, 2021 at 12:32 PM

    • Good for you for seeing these abstractions cosmically. That’s the way to go. The combination of science and poetry is one that appeals to me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2021 at 7:27 PM

  6. Love the patterns. My daughter (south of London) took some interesting patterns of the frost on her car windscreen last week where there appeared to be an almost regular pattern with tiny balls in the centre of the star shaped design.


    January 29, 2021 at 6:54 PM

  7. Ice is a lot of fun to work with, and you did a fine job capturing the last of the “survival” ice. I love how you continued to wonder (and wander) about what might be left of the sleet and snow to photograph.


    January 29, 2021 at 10:18 PM

    • I’m so happy that I did follow my intuition and go out two days after the snowfall; nature rewarded me for my persistence. Your phrase “survival ice” is a good one. I, too, survived; in my case it was prolonged contact with the ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2021 at 8:27 AM

  8. In the first photo, Tina saw a whale; I saw a tropical fish swimming out from behind a coral head. I smiled at the second, and wondered if, somewhere, some sentient being sees the black holes of space in that way.


    January 30, 2021 at 9:23 AM

    • Two votes for the briny deep, and now also one for deep space as the home of black holes. This sentient being didn’t make that leap, though he did appreciate the hole in the ice for its aesthetics.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2021 at 9:39 AM

      • As for the quotation: I’ve been reading and re-reading the essay written by Solzhenitsyn and dated February 12, 1974 — the day he was arrested by the secret police. One of these days I’m going to find a way to contextualize it and present it on my blog. I’ve not read Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies, but I intend to. As soon as I saw the title, I recognized the reference.


        January 30, 2021 at 10:58 AM

        • I don’t think today’s Washington Post would allow an American-based editorial along the lines of Solzhenitsyn’s to appear in its pages. The “soft totalitarianism” mentioned in the Dreher book review seems to be rapidly hardening.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 30, 2021 at 1:55 PM

  9. I see a moth atop a leaf in the first shot. You really made the most of your cold snap.

    Steve Gingold

    January 30, 2021 at 5:48 PM

    • Yup, I snapped right to it: 5 hours on the day of the snowfall and another hour-and-a-quarter two days later. And now I see the characteristic triangular moth shape you discerned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2021 at 6:53 PM

  10. […] what you heard in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had […]

  11. […] what you learned in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin sheets of ice had […]

  12. […] what you learned in part 1: In a shaded part of Great Hills Park on January 12th I discovered that thin, irregularly shaped […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: