Frost and Ice Photography Tips

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Frozen Water Piece

A crisp coating of frost can transform any shot, from rural landscape to close-ups in your garden.

Whatever the subject, the approach is the same – a fast one! A touch of sunlight, a degree or so rise in temperature and the magic’s gone.

This may work to your advantage, allowing you to contrast cool, frost-covered shadows against warm, sunlit areas of a scene.


Ice Flower


If you’re working with close-up subjects, make sure you don’t breathe on them or knock them as you move your tripod around and try and frame the shot against a dark background in order to make the frosted edging stand out.


Frost transforms things into artwork. On leaves and vegetation, subtle edge and vein patterns stand out boldly as intriguing designs.


ice flower       Frost


On window panes frost patterns can be fascinating. Again, it’s mainly a matter of checking out your local weather forecast, knowing your surroundings, what to expect, and getting there with your camera before it melts!


Ice Flowers


Freezing Rain

A special instance of ice is freezing rain. Look for interesting things—grasses, leaves, branches, and twigs, etc., encased in it. Exposure can be tricky with the reflected light, so bracket your exposures!


Freezing Rain Sculpture      Frost and Ice



Spikes of ice formed when ice or snow is melted by sunlight or some other heat source, and the resulting melted water runs or drips into an area where the temperature is below the freezing point, causing the water to refreeze. Over time continued water runoff/dripping causes the icicle to grow. Icicles can be found under roof edges of buildings and on branches and twigs, etc. Whether solitary or in groups, they can be very photogenic when back or side lit or hanging against a dark background.


Frozen Water        Icicles on Lantern



Here is a special ice situation to look out for: it snows, then turns mild and rainy, then suddenly cold snaps. Objects like wooden fences often store the melting water or clear ice from the rain and cold snap, producing some very unusual subjects.


Iced Fence



Air bubbles trapped in the ice and cracks as the ice begins to melt produce interesting and often intricate shapes, which when shot with a macro lens, result in a large collection of abstract shots. Look towards the edges of ponds, lakes and streams too for areas where leaves and other debris have got trapped in the ice. Near waterfalls, even if it’s not cold enough to freeze their movement, look for nearby plants, grass and rocks that water’s splashed on to as it could have frozen, resulting in stalagmites and other shapes forming on them.


Frozen Water        Frozen Ice Bubbles


Be safe

A macro lens will get you close to the patterns in the ice but don’t put yourself in a position where you or your kit could end up in the freezing water. Instead, use a telephoto lens to pull the detail to you.

Reflection problems

To cut down on reflections and glare, particularly when you’re trying to show what’s stuck inside the ice, fit a polarising filter. If a polarising filter doesn’t cut down the reflections as much as you’d like, try standing so you block some of the light/reflection coming from the sky. This will make your shot darker however so keep an eye on your exposure, checking your histogram and using a longer shutter speed, if needs be, to pull more light into your shot.


Side lighting can help create more texture in your images but do remember ice can melt quite quickly when the sun is out so don’t work too slowly and keep shooting as different patterns will begin to form as more of the ice vanishes.


Darker backgrounds will help give the ice more punch but aren’t a necessity. Although, if you want to ensure you have a dark background every time, put a piece of dark material or card in your camera bag that you can substitute as needs be.

Your camera may be fooled

Large light, white areas can fool your camera into underexposing your shot so make sure you regularly check your histogram and use exposure compensation (+1 or +1.5) to give the ice that glisten everyone expects to see. Most cameras have this feature

Enjoy and awaken the creativity inside of you! 🙂

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