There's nothing quite like picking your way around the edges of a lake which is just beginning to freeze and photographing great abstract pictures of ice details. Similarly, icicles at the edges of streams and in waterfalls can lift otherwise ordinary shots into a whole new dimension.
On really cold mornings, lake edges start to freeze, providing abstract patterns with overlapping layers of ice just beginning to form. Pop a macro lens on your camera, fix it on the tripod and look closely for patterns in the ice. The edge of the ice can give great shapes, too. Look for leaves caught on or in the ice as well, or bubbles given off by underwater plant life that has frozen in the ice surface.
To see through some of the icy layers to the details below, a polarising filter can be useful to reduce reflection from the surface of the ice.
For a waterfall to freeze, it needs to get really cold, but where water falls, or tumbles over rocks, it creates turbulence and splashes up over surrounding rocks and vegetation. These areas freeze into crystal-like caps over rocks, icy stalagmites on grass or chandelier-like structures on large waterfalls. Even where water drips off the edges of peat bog into streams, in cold spells, these can form wonderful icicles which, after water levels drop slightly, hang magically above the surface of the water.
Where there is still moving water in the photo, try a range of shutter speeds to contrast the frozen ice with the flow of the water - or even the ripples in the stream. Use of a polarising filter will take reflections off the water to show it as darker, contrasting with the whiteness of the ice, although sometimes reflections in the water are just as important as the ice itself! A telephoto zoom may help you to crop close without risking a slip and fall into very cold water.
Remember, where there is a predominance of white tones, they are likely to confuse your camera meter, so be prepared to add about a stop exposure. Conversely, highlights on ice against a dark background may blow easily, so keep a close eye on your histograms.
Ice will hang about more in shaded areas, so watch your white balance to avoid your whites turning out with a blue cast.
Finally - watch your step, scrambling around icy edges of lakes, or near waterfalls in sub-zero temperatures can be very slippery underfoot, so be careful not to fall in, or worse, let your camera topple in either; but find some icy margins and create some exciting pictures.
Article by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.
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