Ice Pattern photos

By Sunday, January 4, 2009grafphoto

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.

Ice Abstract

Ice Abstract

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

Using LiveView

Using LiveView

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.

Ice Pattern

Ice Pattern

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Lana says:

    I absolutely LOVE those ice shots! How awesome!

  • Mark says:

    Thanks Petra – surely those old German woods must have some frozen streams? 🙂
    Michael, Howard, thanks! Michael – there are many days where I would trade you some weather. Perhaps we can arrange an exchange.

  • Howard Grill says:

    Wow…really amazing and beautiful images. Very reminiscent of the rock images but in some ways even more interesting…only tone and form to concentrate on. Great!

  • These abstracts are fantastic!
    It would pretty much have to be one cold day in hell before we get anything like this around the Columbia area on a consistent basis.
    I’m jealous!!

  • Hi Mark – marvellous pictures. I thought you were using that kind of set up for these photos because you could never do that free hand! But it’s nice to see how you work!
    I am always on the lookout for things like this but no luck at all…

  • Sabac says:

    To be very true, This is somethign very rare and new to me. I have never seen such photos and post in my life before visiting this blog. You have just ignited a new fire in me and I’ll be looking for more.

  • Daniel Sroka says:

    Fascinating photographs! I wanted to try some more ice work last week, but the wind started howling, and I wimped out. It takes a strong constitution to make this kind of art!

  • Precarious indeed…. I think it would make me nervous to hang my camera like that but you’ve obviously got a system down. Wonderful series, Mark. Seeing them as a body of work created more of an impact for me; really LOVED the one with the embedded leaf.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Diane – trust me, I would dive underneath that tripod if I saw it going in. Normally I could straddle the small streams, but this one was just a bit too wide. Working on more ‘series of images’ is something I plan to work on this year.

  • Anita Jesse says:

    “Haunting” was an excellent choice. Like Andreas I was drawn to the alien face, and I am fascinated by the different haunting elements—eyes, objects, landscapes, and then, finally, the exclamation point of the leaf is the perfect touch. You have managed processing that has a delicious sense of inevitability, rather than an afterthought. Besides all this that photo of your setup is impressive and intimidating. You might spoil more than ice patterns, if you get too far out on that ice. This series will call me back for repeated viewings.

  • Minna says:

    Stunning pictures, I really love the way you’ve picked out the details, just like you’ve done with the rock abstracts!

    Looking at the Ice Abstracts gallery, I think I prefer these new ones. The patterns are so good that they deserve to stand on their own and your PP certainly lifts them up. 🙂

    I would love to try these myself… but we are in a middle of a cold period and have a foot or more snow on the ice so I’m practising with snow abstracts instead. 😉

  • Andreas says:

    Love the last picture in this post, the face-like alien one. Wonderful!

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