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Capturing Frost / Ice Patterns And Scenes To Create Interesting Abstracts

Here are a few tips on shooting ice / frost this winter so you can capture interesting abstract shots.

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Frost might not be good for plants but it is great for photographers who are looking for winter scenes and interesting abstracts to add to their portfolio. 

Ice Patterns

Photos by David Clapp

When's the best time for photographing frost and why?
Dawn shooting is the best time for ice and frost. Ensure you get there before the sun is up as there are fantastic opportunities to be had.

When you're photographing frost does the sun always have to be behind you?
No, not at all, direct light and side light are extremely complimentary as the ice and frost glistens. Literally any angle is worth experimenting with.

How do you keep yourself and your kit dry and warm?
Wear two pairs of socks and quality gloves! Don't worry about your camera gear at all, when going from warm to cold, but be prepared for condensation when returning home. Leave your camera in the bag to acclimatise.

Photographing ice/frost can produce grey looking images, how can you stop this happening?
Always check the histogram to ensure a healthy exposure and expose +1stop to +1.5stops to make the ice glisten.

Where are the best locations for both good landscape shots and more close up work?
Reservoirs, lakes, rivers and mountains (if you are lucky enough to live near them) are good as colder night time temperatures occur where water is present. Look for frost covered reeds, branches and places were water splashes as these can be dripping with icicles and interesting features.

What lenses are good for this type of work? 
A standard 90mm macro lens is your best friend when shooting ice and frost, but it’s also possible to get literally the same effect from a medium zoom and a full set of extension rings. These make a great macro alternative and considerably reduce the closest focusing point, especially on a budget.

Should photographers use a tripod/monopod for this type of work?
A tripod is utterly essential, as the best images are rendered in lower light levels. 

Do dark backgrounds work best?
They do help, but it’s not essential. As icicles are translucent, a darker background can help, but it's all about trying things out. For example, try using a piece of card to change the background to suit.

How can post-production help?
Playing with colour temperature in particular is a good way to induce a colder feeling in your ice images. Play with contrast to deepen the tones and lift the highlights, as this will give greater definition to patterns and texture.

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