Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More takes on icicles

with 35 comments


Icicles and I had something in common for nearly four hours on the morning of December 25th: we met at a cliff along the main creek in Great Hills Park. As the day advanced, I swapped my heavy winter jacket for a lighter one and took off my gloves. The icicles, clad in nothing, had only parts of themselves to shed, which at first they barely and then more noticeably did.

I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures as I tried different ways of portraying the icicles. Sometimes I used flash, as above, where the nether ends of the icicles merged with ice that had formed when dripping water froze on a stone slope.



At other times I went without flash. After I noticed the still-low sun intermittently peeking through far branches and close icicles pendant from a rock overhang, I exposed for the bright light, knowing the rest of the image would remain, and wanting it to remain, largely dark. Aiming into the sun produced two artifacts. One, expected, is the sunburst. As for the other, serendipitous and pareidolic, I’ll leave it to you to see whether your imagination works the same way mine does.

Also without flash, and much farther from my subject, is the view below showing tiers of icicles adjacent to southern maidenhair ferns, Adiantum capillus-veneris. From what I’ve read, the brown fern leaves were dead, even as the plants they were on might have been merely dormant.





§        §        §



The other day I complained about Congress passing an “omnibus” bill filled with many wasteful and frivolous things that will cause us, the taxpayers, to borrow another $1.67 trillion at increasingly high interest rates. Not only doesn’t Congress rein in profligate spending, our government doesn’t seem duly concerned about stopping fraud. Here’s a case in point.

As someone of a certain age, I’m on Medicare, which is a government health program for old folks. My December Medicare statement showed two unauthorized charges, one for August 26, 2022, and the other for September 26, 2022. In each case the biller was West Lake RX LLC, at 1255 SW Loop, Suite 120, San Antonio, TX 78227-1666, with phone number 210-851-8448. The billing in the amount of $351.90 on each of those two dates was for “1 Supply allowance for therapeutic continuous glucose monitor (cgm), includes all supplies and acces[s]o[ries] (K0553-KXCG).” The doctor who supposedly prescribed this, Laeeq Butt, is unknown to me, but when I searched online I found he practices telemedicine in Florida. I have never had any medical condition that requires glucose monitoring. When I called Medicare to report the unauthorized billings I was told that this is a known fraud and constitutes criminal activity because Medicare paid the company $183.93 each time. West Lake RX LLC doesn’t seem to have a website of its own, but at Yelp I found many people reporting similar fraudulent billing from the company.

Human nature being what it is, we expect some people to commit fraud. We also expect our government employees, of whom there are millions, to do something about it. Alas, the agent I spoke with at Medicare when I reported the unauthorized billing told me Medicare has no mechanism to flag fraudulent claims on people’s accounts. That seems to mean criminal companies will keep billing Medicare, and Medicare will keep using our tax money to pay the fraudulent claims. Outrageous, isn’t it? It’s also outrageous, since this is a known fraud, that the Federal District Attorney in San Antonio hasn’t filed charges against the company and had the police arrest the people committing the fraud.

I’ve reported all the details of my fraudulent billing not only to Medicare but also, as the Medicare agent instructed me to do, to the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission. Whether it will do any good remains to be seen.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2022 at 4:27 AM

35 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I love the way you embrace the cold spell by searching out the wonders of icicles. Some great photos. As for the Medicare fraud it sounds incredible to me that you could be billed in such a way. At least with our NHS we personally do not suffer fraud but have a government intent on destroying it.


    December 31, 2022 at 6:10 AM

    • As someone who moved to the warm climate of Texas to get away from the cold winters I grew up with in New York, I do push myself to go out in frigid weather when I expect I can get good photographs of frost and ice, and in this case specifically icicles.

      I’m happy for your sake to hear that your National Health Service does a good job clamping down on fraud. The American government seems all too happy to keep shoveling huge amounts of money out the door while only allocating a relative pittance to the people charged with detecting and prosecuting fraud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 8:12 AM

      • Sounds a good place to be. We are in southern Spain because we dislike the cold dull winters. But it can happen with frosts and rain but the sun is always higher and brighter when it comes out.


        December 31, 2022 at 8:47 AM

  2. so much beauty


    December 31, 2022 at 6:14 AM

    • Agreed. That’s why I spent close to four hours there. I’ll have one more installment of icicle pictures in about a week.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 8:16 AM

  3. Your dedication to the craft paid off, these are very interesting shots. Very little ice to be seen in the Finger Lakes region and in my hometown, the little snow they received so far has entirely melted by this morning.

    Robert Parker

    December 31, 2022 at 8:43 AM

    • It’s strange to think of central Texas out-icing the Finger Lakes region for a little while. Of course that’s an anomaly. I remember driving up from Long Island to Union Springs in December 1970 to interview for a job teaching English at the high school there. As I got closer to my destination, it was wonderful to see how snow covered the broad and rolling slopes gradually leading down to Cayuga Lake on the eastern side of the lake.

      The other night on PBS we watched a documentary making the case that Seneca Falls was the inspiration for Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”:


      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 8:52 AM

      • Yes The folks in Seneca Falls are convinced of it, they have a celebration every year centered on that movie and now have a little museum full of memorabilia. Members of the cast visit the town, although the only ones surviving at this point are the ones portraying the youngest children.
        My parents moved to this area over 30 years ago and lived in that town for one year. Their first Christmas season there they had only a vague memory of the old movie, and didn’t realize how elaborate the celebration was. So when they were walking down the street and an old man in a wheelchair said something snappish to them in a high, whiny voice, they just thought he was a strange, unpleasant type and ignored him. They didn’t realize he was an actor portraying Mr. Potter, the nasty old robber baron.

        Robert Parker

        December 31, 2022 at 9:06 AM

        • That’s a good anecdote about the Mr. Potter character. The television documentary featured the annual celebration and included many comments from the woman who as a girl played Zuzu in the movie.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 31, 2022 at 9:12 AM

  4. There’s little ice here, it was 60 yesterday. You’ve handled the icy subject creatively, I like the first image best. Happy new year!


    December 31, 2022 at 10:37 AM

    • Those icicles were ephemeral, already noticeably melting when I left them after four hours. This week in Austin high temperatures have been in the 70s, so ice is pretty remote. On the other hand, in 2020 and again in 2021 we had an ice storm in February, so we may still get some in early 2023. May it be a good year for us all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 3:30 PM

  5. No ice here right now, though that may change in January! They make beautiful subjects to explore, as you do so creatively.

    Lavinia Ross

    December 31, 2022 at 10:39 AM

    • Ice is uncommon enough here that I take whatever advantage I can when we do get some. As you say, icicles make beautiful subjects. I tried many approaches in my picture-taking that day, relying on the expectation that at least some of them would work well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 4:29 PM

  6. Too long have I procrastinated visiting your blog. Now I have a lot of catching up to do.

    Your icy images are fascinating! I’m still trying to come to grips with the fact these were taken in central Texas. The sunburst image is compelling. My imagination attempted to conjure all sorts of hidden figures, but, alas, I apparently did not have sufficient coffee this morning. Very interested to see what you saw.

    Our government ceased being “representative” in nature many years ago. Your tale has motivated me to review my own Medicare billing history. Not looking forward to what I may find.

    When criminal activity goes unpunished it shall thrive. Your discovery that “… Medicare has no mechanism to flag fraudulent claims on people’s accounts” is alarming but, sadly, not surprising.

    Thank you, Steve, for sharing some really COOL photographs of ICE with those of us who are not familiar with seeing the stuff outside of a beverage glass.

    Wally Jones

    December 31, 2022 at 11:32 AM

    • Happy unprocrastination. You’re right that when people think of central Texas, with our half-a-year of summer, they don’t often think of icicles. And usually those people are justified. On the other hand, in 2020 and again in 2021 we had an ice storm in February, so we may still get some more ice in early 2023.

      As for the hidden figure in the second photograph, look a little down and to the right of the starburst, and perhaps you’ll see something. Pareidolia is idiosyncratic: not everyone sees the same thing, or even anything at all.

      Alas, our government isn’t truly representative anymore, if it ever was. And we see so many people getting away with criminal activities, and sometimes even getting rewarded for them. I’ve certainly become cynical.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 5:49 PM

  7. Magical photos – thanks for tempering outrage with some beauty. I am horrified (but not surprised) that our government is unable/unwilling to address widespread fraud.

    • Lovely! Happy new year and all the best for 2023.

    • I like the way you phrased it: tempering outrage with beauty. Unfortunately I’ve had to do a lot of that these past two years. The bigger and more unwieldy the government gets, the more swindling takes place—which is one big reason I’m for smaller government.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2022 at 4:34 PM

  8. Magical…and wish you a Happy New Year, Steve!


    January 1, 2023 at 4:40 AM

  9. If you hadn’t said the sunburst was related to icicles, I would have assumed you’d been photographing among trees. Alas: even with your guidance I couldn’t see the image you mentioned. I did rightly interpret what was going on in the first photo, though. I’d thought the ice globules at the bottom of the frame surely were made by cycles of melting and refreezing, and so they were.


    January 1, 2023 at 8:59 AM

    • It’s certainly easier to interpret the first picture, knowing what we do about water dripping and refreezing in cycles of rising and plummeting temperatures. As for the pareidolia, in this post I purposely didn’t explain what I imagined seeing. I’ll do that in an addendum to tomorrow’s post, so stay tuned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2023 at 9:22 AM

  10. So very pretty !


    January 1, 2023 at 9:04 AM

  11. […] Three posts back I mentioned that in the second photograph of icicles I imagined seeing something which wasn’t […]

  12. Amazing icicles! The last photo looks almost like a frozen waterfall.

    Ann Mackay

    January 7, 2023 at 9:31 AM

    • It’s the closest I can come to a frozen waterfall, which we don’t get in these parts because the temperature almost never stays below freezing for more than a day at a time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2023 at 9:42 AM

  13. Your opener is really ‘cool’ (pun intended). I love the two form together and the composition is nice and clean.


    January 10, 2023 at 11:19 AM

    • It’d be hard to resist that pun. Following the aspens and cottonwoods in October, I once again got to poach on your domain, this time in the form of icicles. In that first picture I was happy with the way the ice above gave way to the ice below.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2023 at 12:45 PM

  14. […] hanging from a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, and January 8th, you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, both with and without […]

  15. […] hanging along a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, January 8th, and January 14th you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, both with and […]

  16. […] hanging from a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, January 8th, January 14th, and January 19th you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, […]

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: