Exploring the Icescape

St. Clair icescape

Varied icescape on Lake St. Clair, Michigan in January 2014 after extreme fluctuations in temperature.

My first time out photographing for 2014 was about 2 weeks ago, revisiting my favorite spot for photographing ice on Lake St. Clair.   As many times as I have been out here, and as much as I TRY to research weather conditions, cloud cover, etc, it is a complete crap shoot for what it is going to be like.   The light, the landscape, state of the ice – all seem to keep me guessing until I actually get there.    What keeps me going back is this very dynamic nature and that it is always different, sometimes just from week to week, and most definitely from year to year.

This particular time presented me with quite a varied landscape.   Given the brutal cold polar vortex we had just gone through (-15 °F/-26°C w/ wind chills to -50°F/-45°C), we experienced temperatures 50 °F (10°C)  degrees warmer within just a few days and the large amounts of snow we had began to melt, as well as the ice.

This time out, walking was difficult, and a bit unnerving.   I am usually out looking for interesting shapes or patterns to incorporate into my photographs, and they aren’t always in convenient spots.   That means I have to walk / climb / crawl sometimes over stacks of ice sheets (that are on top of other piled rocks and chunks of concrete) that might be piled up on the shore to get to that spot that caught my eye.   With snow drifts from all of the wind, temperature variations through the week, various piles of sheets from wind and melt on the lake, nature began testing my determination.

I am not intentionally trying to make this sound overly risky because I am generally quite cautious about each and every step.   It makes moving from spot to spot rather slow.  I have my Kahtoola ice spikes on which aid tremendously in securing non-slip footing, even in water covered areas.  But if it looks a bit too risky or too close to the edge of open water – I chose the side of caution – most times.  :-)

I think the reason I ended up liking this particular photo so much is that it captures most of the states I normally encounter through a season, but all at one time, in one photo.    You can see open water in the distance close to the horizon, there were piles of ice sheets in various spots on the shore, snow drifts shaped by wind covering the ice, large structural areas of accumulation from wave action, and a set of ice ponds in the foreground and middle ground from the melting that was going on.   And oh yeah, it brought a bit of the spring/summer feel to it with the smell of dead fish.  :-) One of these days I am going to photograph this spot in the spring or summer just to show what a dramatic transformation that goes on.



  1. The image looks like the surface of the moon or something SCI-FI to me. Great clouds too!
    Alanna St Laurent recently posted..Macro Photography at Matthaei Botanical GardensMy Profile

  2. I just messed up and posted on Paul’s FB shot that this image was of Lake Michigan. Shows you what I know. I would think about using the telephoto lens rather than venturing out on that frozen lake. But, if we are around such landscape for a period of time it is not as daunting.
    Monte Stevens recently posted..WaitingMy Profile

  3. Looks totally alien. There’s also an element of abstraction in a surrealist way. I can’t even imagine such a landscape. I’ll look forward to seeing what this place looks like in summer. Great shot Mark.
    Cedric Canard recently posted..UnpluggedMy Profile

  4. I have to agree with you – this photo is a very dynamic encapsulation of “winter” as an entity. Love the composition.
    RH recently posted..Evening WalkMy Profile

  5. I do like this sort of photos very much. They show the dull side of winter with its harsh conditions and like you say, with water in many states. The dynamic, fast moving clouds suit the mood very well.
    Very nice achievement, Mark!

    • Thanks Sandra – yes, I find it interesting that I don’t like the cold very much – but I also tend to shoot a bit more during the summer because I find the landscapes more interesting.

  6. I’m really late to the party here, Mark, but I always look forward to your photographic work with the lake/shore ice during the winters and this one is outstanding. I agree the sky is an additional element giving an added dimension and statement of the total surrounding scene.

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