Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pareidolia in ice-encased yaupon twigs

with 18 comments


On February 2nd, coincidentally our second day in the cold, I went out into the yard with my “real” camera, a macro lens, and a ring flash to see what I could do with the ice-encased yaupon trees, Ilex vomitoria. On the top image’s right side I see the reflections of the light on the ice as Hebrew writing. Perhaps you give a big thumbs up to that. Or maybe you see something in the picture below. Speak your imaginings if you wish.




§        §        §




It’s a familiar predicament. We are living through a frenzy of conformity, in which the opinions of a minority of activists are falsely presented by the media, political and corporate classes as though they reflect an established consensus. The impact is being felt in all walks of life. For instance, after the seismic events of the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, an actor friend of mine was contacted by her agency because she had not posted anything on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was told that she must do so immediately if she wanted casting directors to consider her for any future roles. I have heard many such anecdotes, but invariably they are communicated privately. There is a strong general feeling that to publicly object to the prevailing dogma is to jeopardise one’s career and social standing. I have lost count of the number of emails from academics, artists and media figures who have contacted me to express sympathy for my criticism of the new puritans, but who admit that they could never endorse my sentiments in public for fear of ‘cancellation’. It is a circular problem that can only possibly be resolved if sufficient numbers speak out.

This is the sad reality of most present-day working environments, where to utter a forbidden opinion, to misspeak, or even to fail to show due fealty to received wisdom can be an impediment to future job prospects. As a former teacher, I am still in contact with ex-colleagues who are troubled by the sudden revisions made to curricula and pastoral policies. Many are being forced to undergo ‘unconscious bias’ training, even though there is overwhelming evidence that such schemes are unreliable and ineffective. To raise a complaint is taken as proof of the kind of prejudice that the tests seek to expose. After all, only a witch would deny the existence of witchcraft.

Many teachers are concerned about how such modifications have been rushed through with little consultation with parents or staff. One teacher told me about a school assembly, conducted over the internet in the early days of the first coronavirus lockdown, in which pupils were berated for their ‘white privilege’. The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, a school chaplain at Trent College in Derbyshire, told me about training sessions in which staff were instructed to chant ‘smash heteronormativity’, and when he delivered a sermon about the importance of respectfully challenging such ideological viewpoints he was reported to Prevent, the government’s anti-terrorism programme. Other private schools have pledged their fealty to Black Lives Matter, despite the fact that this explicitly anti-capitalist movement objects to their existence and would presumably be happy to see these institutions razed to the ground. In a noble effort to be seen to address injustice, these schools are implementing divisive and contentious theories as though they are irrefutable truths.


Amen to that, which is from Andrew Doyle’s 2022 book The New Puritans.
You’re welcome to read Noel Yaxley’s good review of it.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2023 at 4:29 AM

18 Responses

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  1. The ice-dog in the second photo suggests the ice that’s dogged you, as well as your dogged efforts to record its presence for us. As for the Hebrew script, once you mentioned it, I saw it. Otherwise, I probably would have been attracted to the crackled surface generally: quite different from much of the smooth ice that I’ve seen.


    February 6, 2023 at 6:40 AM

    • We were dogged for three days; the Austin Energy report this morning shows thousands of households still lacking power, with the hardest repairs likely to go on till this coming weekend. Yikes. At least the temperature has warmed up, with highs over 70° for the time being.

      I imagined a quadruped of some sort, more likely Robert’s donkey (see his comment below) than your dog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2023 at 7:49 AM

  2. 👍 Linda sees you, the dogged blogger, being dogged by an ice-dog, but doggone it, I see a lampworked glass donkey or burro.

    Robert Parker

    February 6, 2023 at 6:55 AM

    • My vision’s more on the asinine side, too, than on the canine. I guess that makes us burrocratic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2023 at 7:50 AM

    • LOL, I see that donkey/burro too! That looks an extraordinary amount of ice to me – I have never seen anything like it here.

      Ann Mackay

      February 8, 2023 at 4:45 AM

      • Now that surprises me. I’d have thought you get more ice up there than we do down here. Be that as it may, I’m happy to show off our recent formations.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 8, 2023 at 6:56 AM

        • Maybe it’s because it’s pretty dry here. For some reason we do get frosts but not ice on plants. (Just frozen ponds etc.)

          Ann Mackay

          February 9, 2023 at 7:26 AM

          • We’ve had ice storms here three winters in a row now. They weren’t so common before that. Frozen ponds, on the other hand, remain rare here. And I’ve never seen a frosted window here the way I did when I was growing up in New York.

            Steve Schwartzman

            February 9, 2023 at 7:51 AM

  3. I have never seen so many colours on ice before. In the first picture, I see a leg and a boot ready to kick anyone who denies the existence of such a beautiful phenomenon.

    Peter Klopp

    February 6, 2023 at 9:19 AM

  4. Thanks for the post – I was trying to recall the term “ pareidolia” the other day. My own photos of ice encased twigs last week were interpreted as either the fickle finger of fat or as abstract paintings. In your pics I see a thumbs up, and a pointing finger to the left, and a rabbit to the right.

    Robert Kampu

    February 6, 2023 at 9:44 AM

    • You’re welcome. I expect many of us were doing pictures of ice-clad trees last week. “Fickle finger of fat” is a nice alliteration. So you also saw the thumbs up. What could be the big ears of a rabbit also suggested a quadruped like a donkey to some people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2023 at 10:27 AM

  5. I see two things in the first image: a rabbit with a short nose and long ears, and then a boot.

    Eliza Waters

    February 6, 2023 at 2:30 PM

  6. Those are particularly beautiful and artistic ice specimens, Steve. I see a moose in the second one.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 6, 2023 at 3:28 PM

    • Thanks. The figure in the second photo is definitely more a moose than a mouse. Other people have seen a rabbit, a donkey, and a dog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2023 at 3:32 PM

  7. Excellent!


    February 7, 2023 at 1:13 AM

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