My first outing for 2009 to photograph was a quick jump into my local woods to look for ice patterns. These woods are quite good for ice because nearly all of it floods quite regularly from the Clinton River. Given crazy Michigan weather, it dumped a good 12 inches of snow on us, had freezing temperatures, and then decided to jump to 55 deg F – hence, plenty of flooding – then back below freezing again – so plenty of ice. But I wasn’t looking for just plain ice, I wanted ice patterns created by flowing water as I have always thought those were the most interesting for abstracts.
So I found a few spots where overflows and small streams were, and found the patterns I was looking for. I also knew I didn’t want these images to just look like pictures of ice. I was interested in the patterns, lines, curves, cavities, and rhythms. It really didn’t matter if it was ice at all – it could have been sand or Jello – anything that would create the graphical abstracts I was after. So in my post-processing in Lightroom, I played a bit with saturation levels, black points and contrast to come up with the look I was after. Just enough visual separation from the subject of ice to create focus on the patterns. Yet, the images are still of ice. I applied this to all of my favorite shots from the day to create a thematic look. I actually ended up quite pleased with how they look. After reviewing them as a group, they actually looked a bit haunting.
Since everything was being done in Lightroom, it was a snap to create a small web gallery of my first haunted ice shoot of 2009 – you can see that here: Ice Patterns Jan 2009
Using Live View
I was a little bit skeptical of how much I would use Live View when I eventually got a camera that had it. (where you can use the LCD on the back of the camera to see what the lens sees – like many P&S cameras) After so many years of getting a very isolated view through a SLR viewfinder, it just didn’t feel natural. Well, it came in very handy for this type of work on edges of streams. Some of the patterns were near the middle of a small stream, or close to a fragile edge. Step too close, and the entire sheet of ice is ruined. The photo here is an example of a precarious setup where I could keep my distance from stepping on the fragile ice, and still compose using the back of the camera. I couldn’t have made some of these images without it. You can see the sun was casting some shadows, so a diffuser helped eliminate that. This particular setup was for making the image with the leaf in it that was frozen to the ice. It also gives you a good idea of the environment where these types of patterns can be found.
Since I have now accumulated quite a few Ice Abstracts over the years, I also created a special section for them in my gallery.