Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Backlit icicles

with 25 comments

February 20th marked the fourth and last of my recent forays into Great Hills Park for ice and snow pictures. For the first time in my life (if memory serves) I photographed backlit icicles. In the opening view I used flash so I could stop down to f/18. That way everything was in focus, from the nearest rocks in the lower right to the ruins of the fallen Ashe juniper tree, Juniperus ashei, in the upper left, where the backlighting is also the most evident in the top picture. Contrast that with the second image, where I got closer and avoided flash so that backlighting would be the main source of illumination.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2021 at 4:36 AM

25 Responses

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  1. The lighting really brings out the detail in the second picture. (I clicked to enlarge it… well-worth doing so!)

    Ann Mackay

    March 5, 2021 at 5:44 AM

    • The backlighting grabbed me from the beginning and I took a bunch of photographs showing the icicles that way. Only then did I add flash for three more pictures; it led to a downplaying of the backlighting in return for the added details in the rock. As you noted, the backlighting is more dramatic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 6:09 AM

  2. The contrast between the smoothsicles and the knobbisicles in the second photo’s really interesting, and pleasing. I like the play of the shadows on the ice, too. The use of flash adds warmth to the first photo, but the backlighting’s my favorite.


    March 5, 2021 at 7:42 AM

    • Yes, this was all (or almost all, to be accurate) about backlighting. The score at this spot was 28 pictures without flash and only 3 with. In the second photo, the bifid icicle keeps drawing my eyes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 7:52 AM

  3. These are the last beautifully captured reminders of the ice storm. Hopefully, you are now back into the typical Texan spring season, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    March 5, 2021 at 9:23 AM

    • Yes, that was already two weeks ago. Since then we got as high as 30° one afternoon, though one other days into the normal spring range. For all the trouble the abnormally frigid winter weather caused, I miss the ice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 11:04 AM

      • If you weren’t barred from entering Canada, there would still be a lot of ice left for you to see. Alas, photography is not an essential activity.

        Peter Klopp

        March 5, 2021 at 1:51 PM

  4. These are beautiful photos, Steve. You certainly made the most of the wild storm.


    March 5, 2021 at 10:23 AM

  5. These lighting conditions sure added a few challenges. I can well imagine how difficult it would have been to try to deal with them back in pre-digital days. Nice work.


    March 5, 2021 at 2:52 PM

    • Thanks. Some young photographers in recent years have made a thing of working with film. Me, I’d not want to go back, given how much more control of an image I have in the digital world—and I don’t have to breathe chemicals in a small room.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 3:46 PM

      • I’m in full agreement–but there was a magic aura in that little room, and sometimes in my dreams I find myself back there once more.


        March 6, 2021 at 1:29 PM

  6. Nice, Steve!

    Eliza Waters

    March 5, 2021 at 9:10 PM

    • As someone who’s around icicles a whole lot more than I am, have you ever noticed any backlit ones?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 9:15 PM

      • The one thing about having ice all winter is we tend to take it for granted. Your excitement has made me appreciate it more than I usually do. But, yes, my recent post of roof icicles tried to capture the glitter of the sun, but came up short. Most icicles I see are in stream areas, so there isn’t much chance of getting backlit shots.

        Eliza Waters

        March 5, 2021 at 9:21 PM

        • I lucked out in having the sun in just the right place to get such strong backlighting; a little earlier or later and it wouldn’t have happened. Let’s hope you get more icicles to photograph this season; it’s pretty certain Austin is done.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 5, 2021 at 9:29 PM

  7. They are both beautiful, each in their own way, but I am more partial to image #1 for its moodiness.

    Lavinia Ross

    March 5, 2021 at 9:48 PM

    • Thanks for letting me know you’re partial to the first picture for the moodiness you find in it. As the French say: chacun à son goût, everyone to their own taste.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2021 at 9:51 PM

  8. I like the lighting of the second allowing so much of the detail to shine.

    Steve Gingold

    March 6, 2021 at 4:58 PM

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