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Posts Tagged ‘ice’

With the weather so warm recently in my area, it is hard to remember that the puddles were iced over last Thursday when I captured this early morning shot of one of them at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Winter in my area has been exceptionally mild—we have had almost no snow and only occasional periods of below-freezing temperatures. I have always been fascinated by the abstract patterns that form as water freezes, but this was the first time this season that I was able to capture a shot like this.

I am even more in awe of the amazing photos that I occasionally come across of individual snowflakes—capturing a shot like that is on my list of aspirational goals in photography.

ice

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t often shoot landscape images, but I was so taken with the stark beauty of the ice-covered world that I encountered on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I decided that I should attempt to capture a sense of the moment. I used the wide-angle capabilities of my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in the first two images below and shot the third one with the Tamron 150-600mm lens, the lens that I use on my Canon 50D for a significant number of my the photos featured on this blog.

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icescape

icescape

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Early this morning, it was really cold and windy and most of the birds and animals showed great common sense in staying in sheltered spots. This little sparrow, however, seemed to be having a good time hopping, skipping, and skating across the frozen pond.

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sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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After several days of frigid temperatures, ice formed on the ponds at Huntley Meadows Park. Yesterday morning, it was finally above freezing and mist was rising from the ice, joining the low-hanging fog.

The sunlight was not strong enough to pierce the thick gray clouds and the winter landscape was almost monochromatic, filled with a sense of bleakness and desolation.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The Washington D.C. area is virtually shut down today as we await a winter snowstorm—the federal and local government offices and schools are all closed. With a little extra time on my hands, I was able to go over some of my photos from Monday’s storm and thought I’d post a couple more images from that event, which covered all surfaces, including the pine trees, with a coating of ice.

I find there is a fragile, transitory beauty in these abstract images—an hour later, when the sun’s rays hit the ice, the effect was gone.

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I awoke yesterday to a world covered in ice, the aftermath of a storm of sleet and freezing rain. Peering out the sliding glass doors, I could see the branches of a pine tree bent over, heavy with the weight of the ice, and almost touching the boards of my backyard deck.

I took a number of shots as the morning sun started to melt the ice. Somehow I keep coming back to this almost abstract image of the pine needles. It’s definitely not my usual style of shooting, so it’s hard to explain why it appeals to me.

It’s probably a good thing to shoot things differently from time to time and try out unusual approaches. At a minimum, you’ll have fun and you may end up with crazy images that you like.

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According to the internet weather for my area, it is 8 degrees F outside right now and windy (minus 13 degrees C). Baby, it’s cold outside. We are forecast to get up to about 20 degrees F today (minus 7 C).

This is unusually cold weather for the Washington D.C. area, where winters are relatively mild. Earlier in the week we had a couple of inches of snow right at the morning rush hour and the roads were gridlocked for hours as commuters unfamiliar with the snow struggled to stay on the pavement.

The roads are treated now and mostly passable, but the cold makes even short outdoor trips barely tolerable. Earlier this month I took some shots of ice that had accumulated in the shady area of a stream at my local marshland park and one of those ice shots seem appropriate for today. I really like the way that the shapes and shades of the ice came out in this image, along with some of the bubbles in the water.

I have lots to do at work today—I sure hope my car starts in another hour or so.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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During this transitional time of the year there is often a thin coating of ice on the pond, especially when the temperature at night drops into the low 20’s F (-5 C).  On Friday morning, the ice was thick enough to support the weight of ducks most of the time, although the Canada Geese kept breaking through the ice when they tried to walk on it.

This female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) started out strutting confidently across the ice, but stopped for a moment at a place where the water had accumulated. I couldn’t tell if she was assessing the condition of the ice or was merely admiring her reflection—she is quite a beautiful duck after all and perhaps ducks have a sense of vanity.

The male Mallard was more practical, remaining in the area of open water and foraging for food, content to leave the strutting and reflecting to his lady.

duck_walk_blogduck_reflect_blogmallard-male_nov_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Which of your images are unusual or distinctive enough that you genuinely feel like they are “once in a lifetime” photos?

Of course, all photos are unique captures of a subject at a particular moment. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

Somehow, though, it seems like we could capture similar images in many cases if we returned to the same locations under similar conditions and were patient and persistent enough.

As I celebrate my two year blog anniversary this week, I’ve been doing a few retrospective re-postings of favorite posts from the earliest days and am continuing in that vein today with some photos of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) breaking through the ice of a beaver pond from below on a winter day early in 2013.

A lot of things had to work together perfectly for me to get these images and it’s hard to imagine that confluence of factors ever happening again for me. The photos and the accompanying prose help to document that very special moment.

Besides the uniqueness of that moment, there is something particularly enjoyable about posting icy winter photos as we continue to suffer through a seemingly endless cycle of hot, humid summer weather. I hope that you feel as refreshed as I do when viewing these images.

Complete text of original posting Breaking through the ice from below on 30 January 2013:

The beaver had disappeared from the small open water area of the ice-covered beaver pond.  Wondering if he would resurface, I stood in silent readiness with my camera still in my hand.

My eyes were focused on one area of the pond, but my ears detected a sound emanating from another location near the edge of the pond. Somehow I knew instantly what was about to happen—the beaver was about to achieve a breakthrough. The light had faded a bit and I couldn’t see well enough to focus perfectly, but I aimed at the source of the sound and got this shot of the beaver poking his head through a newly-created hole in the ice. From this perspective, it looks like the beaver is pretty small.

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As I watched, the beaver placed his front paws on the ice, which appeared to be able to support his weight, and gradually pulled his body out of the water. Naturally, the small hole became a lot bigger as his large body came increasingly into view.

breakthrough4_blogbreakthrough2_blogAfter the beaver was completely out of the water, he bent down over the opening that he had just created. Perhaps he was trying to decide if he needed to enlarge it further or was trying to free a tasty-looking stick from the ice. It almost looks to me, though, that he is peering into the water, wondering if one of his fellow beavers is going to be popping up to join him.

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The beaver did not linger long at the new location. After a few seconds on the “outside,” he dove back into the icy waters of the pond.

There are few moments in life that are truly “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, ones that would be impossible to replicate, but I have the sense that this was one of them. So many things had to work together to make these photos happen—the timing, the location, and the ice, to name a few.

It is supposed to get up to 70 degrees (21 degrees C) today and the ice will almost certainly be gone by the time I am able to return to the marsh this weekend. Perhaps I will get to observe the beavers eating or working or playing or maybe they will remain in the lodge. In either case, I can be happy, knowing that we shared a really special moment together.

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In this transitional time of the year, mornings are often frosty and ice forms in some areas of the marsh in beautiful patterns that look like crystal flowers. Spring is not far off and soon these ice flowers will be replaced by the real thing.

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I waited for the sunset yesterday at my local marshland park and was treated to some cool effects as the last rays of the sun made their way through the trees onto the icy pond, creating some beautiful reflections.

My eye is really attuned to this effect because of a recent series of images by Stephen Pitt in his blog “Le temps d’un Soupir…” that show early morning rays of sun illuminating the forest floor. Check out his most recent posting by clicking on the name of his blog.

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When I was a college student in the 1970’s a cheap sparkling wine known as “Cold Duck” was really popular (along with Zapple, Annie Greensprings, and Boone’s Farm). Do they still produce those wines?

The title of this posting, however, refers to a bird that I observed on the ice this past weekend, not to a retro beverage.

I was struck by the contrast between the vivid colors of the male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and the drab gray and white of the frozen pond. The duck seemed to be getting into a yoga-like pose, with one foot flat on the ice and the pointed toe of the other foot providing additional stability. Wait a minute, do ducks have toes?

I also couldn’t help but notice that ducks look a lot more graceful when swimming or flying—walking looks like it would be awkward for a duck. I suspect that no composer will every produce a ballet entitled “Duck Pond,” which would scarcely provide any competition for “Swan Lake.”

In the first few days of February, our temperatures have soared over the freezing mark, but there has been little melting on the surface of the pond and I did not detect any quacks in the ice.

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Yesterday’s cloudy, rainy, foggy day made it a little tough to take photos, but I like the effect it had on the landscape, creating almost monochromatic scenes of different shades of gray. This is an unfamiliar style of shooting for me, so I played around a bit, trying to capture both a wide view of the marsh, and some close-views of isolated areas.

The snow here is gone now, but the ice is still hanging on.

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Back home from a week overseas in Vienna, I felt the need to reconnect with nature and headed off to the marsh at Huntley Meadows Park early this morning. The weather was cold and gray, but I was able to get some shots of birds, like this Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), surveying the frozen pond from an overhanging branch.

It’s nice to be home.

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Continuing the theme of transitions from this morning, I thought I’d post a photo of several geese transitioning from rapid flight through the air to a complete halt on a frozen pond.

I love to watch geese coming in for a landing as they noisily announce their arrival, which is often accompanied with a big splash and energetic flapping of wings.

The situation is a bit more problematic when the ice is solid and any miscalculation could lead to physical injury.  It appears to me that the geese flap their wings as hard as they can to decelerate and attempt to carefully place their webbed feet. That is what the goose on the left appears to be doing. If that doesn’t work, as a last resort the goose can lower his tail to slow down his forward momentum, as the goose on the right is doing.

Judging from my observations, some geese are much more adept at this type of landings than others, who slip and slide and skid for a while until they finally stop moving forward.

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Can you figure out what is going on in this photo of a goose posing in an unusual position?

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The pre-spring season is a often a period of transitions, as winter gradually looses its hold and gives way to spring. The old lingers, but is gradually replaced with the new.

In the first photo, the goose is transitioning from the ice, which still covers much of the pond, into a small pool of open water. I captured him at the moment when he took the plunge and gradually eased his body into the icy water.

I watched him as he approached this area slowly and cautiously, staring intently at the ice, as shown in the second photo. He seemed to hesitated, uncertain about whether to continue to move forward.

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I know that I approach transitions in much the same way as this goose, hesitating and cautious, frozen in uncertainty. He had the courage to move forward and embrace the change. Will I be able to do the same when these moments arrive?

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This past weekend I hiked on the Potomac Heritage Trail, a trail that follows the Potomac River beginning near Washington D.C. on the Virginia side of the river,  and is very narrow and rocky. In several places, I passed waterfalls as various streams fed into the river, including this one that was partially frozen that really caught my eye. Given that we don’t generally get much snow, this is about all I can muster for a wintery photo.

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I love the way that a small amount of snow brings out geometric shapes that might otherwise be hidden from view, like these sinuous curves at the edge of the marsh. The iced-over water has a darker tone that contrasts with the white of the snow and gives this photo an abstract quality that I really like. The texture of the wood in the foreground and its angular line add another element of contrast.

This shot is somewhat atypical for me in that it does not contain living creatures and is not a close-up—some days shapes and patterns and light and geometry are sufficient to attract my attention.

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I was fortunate enough this past weekend to be present as one of the beavers at my local marsh first emerged from the icy waters of the beaver pond and got a series of shots of that process.

It was late in the afternoon and a thin layer of ice covered the small area of open water that the beavers had cleared about 30-35 feet (9-10 meters) from their lodge. I could hear some activity in the beaver lodge and then I saw the shadow of a beaver swimming toward the hole in the ice.

When he reached the opening, the beaver stuck his head out of the ice and then more of his body. The beaver never did come out of the water completely, but seemed content to breathe in the cool, fresh air. From what I have been able to learn, the inside of the beaver lodge is pretty crowded and the air probably gets fetid, which may explain why fresh air was the beaver’s first priority.

I like all three of these shots, but the third one is my favorite. The beaver’s position is especially interesting, as he tips his head back and arches his back a little, as if to let in even more fresh air.

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Preparing to leave “my” marsh yesterday afternoon, I looked over the frozen fields and waters and was struck by the beauty of the light and the reflections of the sky in the puddles. The scene was awash in shades of blue and gray. Somehow the photo of the scene is not quite as beautiful as I remembered, but I decided not to tweak it much.  In addition to capturing the moment, this photo also provides you with a view of part of the marshland where I take so many of my photos.

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On days when I am trying to get photos of the beavers at my local marshland park, I sometimes see muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) swimming in the beaver pond. The muskrats seem to be swimming from the direction of the beaver lodge so often that I wonder if they are sharing the lodge with the beavers.

Today, there was a thin layer of ice on the beaver pond, but the muskrats had created an open-water channel that they seemed to be using to get to the cattails, one of the foods they eat. Frequently the muskrats will dive and swim away when they become aware of my presence.

Today, however, I was able to get a couple of shots of what I think is one of the muskrats partially out of the water on the ice. It was getting close to sunset and the animal was some distance away, so my photos ended up a a bit grainy and soft. The more I look at the photos, the more I am conflicted about whether this is a large muskrat or a small beaver. Since I haven’t seen a muskrat out of water, I am not sure about its body shape.

Whatever he is, I especially like the pose of the animal in the first image. In the second shot, he almost looks like he is praying—it was a Sunday, after all.

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The beaver had disappeared from the small open water area of the ice-covered beaver pond.  Wondering if he would resurface, I stood in silent readiness with my camera still in my hand.

My eyes were focused on one area of the pond, but my ears detected a sound emanating from another location near the edge of the pond. Somehow I knew instantly what was about to happen—the beaver was about to achieve a breakthrough. The light had faded a bit and I couldn’t see well enough to focus perfectly, but I aimed at the source of the sound and got this shot of the beaver poking his head through a newly-created hole in the ice. From this perspective, it looks like the beaver is pretty small.

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As I watched, the beaver placed his front paws on the ice, which appeared to be able to support his weight, and gradually pulled his body out of the water. Naturally, the small hole became a lot bigger as his large body came increasingly into view.

breakthrough4_blogbreakthrough2_blogAfter the beaver was completely out of the water, he bent down over the opening that he had just created. Perhaps he was trying to decide if he needed to enlarge it further or was trying to free a tasty-looking stick from the ice. It almost looks to me, though, that he is peering into the water, wondering if one of his fellow beavers is going to be popping up to join him.

breakthrough3_blog

The beaver did not linger long at the new location. After a few seconds on the “outside,” he dove back into the icy waters of the pond.

There are few moments in life that are truly “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, ones that would be impossible to replicate, but I have the sense that this was one of them. So many things had to work together to make these photos happen—the timing, the location, and the ice, to name a few.

It is supposed to get up to 70 degrees (21 degrees C) today and the ice will almost certainly be gone by the time I am able to return to the marsh this weekend. Perhaps I will get to observe the beavers eating or working or playing or maybe they will remain in the lodge. In either case, I can be happy, knowing that we shared a really special moment together.

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I got down pretty low to take this shot of a beaver at my local marshland park as he swam in my direction. I especially like the the reflection of his face in the water and the fact that his tail is visible. The ice in the foreground helps to give some interesting context to the photo.

During other seasons, the beavers would immediately dive whenever they sensed my presence, but the last week or so the beavers have been much more wiling to tolerate me (and others). Maybe the ice on the pond forces them to stay closer to home and to venture out more during the daylight hours rather than at night.

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Brussels is still blanketed with a light coating of snow. The outdoor areas of the restaurants on the Grand-Place, the old city square, are deserted, but they continue to be surrounded by flowerboxes full of hardy flowers, like this little pansy. My eyes were drawn to this splash of color in a sea of grayness.

The little point-and-shoot Canon that I have with me has a limited zoom range, but it does have a macro mode that lets me get pretty close to my subject. I have tried to capture simultaneously the colors of the flower and the sense of winter. I did find the ice to be particularly difficult to render in a realistic way, probably because of its reflectiveness.

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On rare occasions I can anticipate a photo opportunity as a series of actions seems to heading towards an inevitable conclusion. That was the case this past weekend.

The weather here has warmed up and the layer of ice on the ponds has started to melt a bit. I watched as a mixed group of Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks started walking across the iced-over beaver pond.

A duck walked past a branch sticking out from the ice and I thought I detected some water, suggesting to me that they were walking on thin ice. A goose (in the second photo) looked down at the ice and made a mental calculation that it was safe to cross. His calculations proved to be wrong as he broke through the ice and started to sink into the water. I caught his initial reaction in the third photo. I especially like the startled look in his eyes.

Without further delay, he flapped his wings and was able to lift himself out of the water. The photo I took of that moment is the first one shown on this blog posting and is my favorite. I am happy that I was able to capture a lot of the the details of the wings and of the ice. You can see, for example, the sheets of ice that have broken off on either side of the goose. I also like the sense of action in the position of the goose, a moment frozen in time (sorry about the obvious pun).

I always feel a little strange when I post a series of action shots in non-sequential order, but I worry that folks won’t stay around to see the dramatic conclusion if all they see is the first shot (which is not that exciting, but is an important part of the story). That is why I led with the conclusion, thereby giving away the end of the story. Maybe I need to employ the kind of techniques used in television, “Stay tuned as this goose rescues himself from the frozen waters of the pond…”

Breaking the ice

Breaking the ice

Testing the ice

Testing the ice

Starting to go under

Starting to go under

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This past weekend there was a thin layer of ice on many of the little ponds at my local marshland park. I thought the ice would deter the migrating ducks and geese from stopping in, but I was wrong. Perhaps they just needed a break from flying.

It seemed unusual enough that I took some photos of the ducks walking on the frozen water. The first two images are pretty straightforward, but I tried to be a little creative in framing the third image, as a female duck contemplates the vast expanse of the ice in front of her.

I even tried to capture a duck landing on the ice in the last photo. A female duck is making a soft landing as her male companion prepares to come in right behind her. It’s not really sharp, but it gives you the idea. I had previously thought that the ducks would aim to land in the water that had not yet frozen, but obviously the ducks know what they are doing.

I never know what I will find when I venture out into nature—it’s one of the reasons that I keep returning to the same places, in hopefeil expectation of new surprises.

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We have had temperatures below freezing most nights recently and many of the ponds at my local marshland are now covered with a thin sheet of ice. I was a little shocked today to see that ducks and geese continue to fly in and out of the pond, in some cases landing on the ice itself (some of the birds find areas that are not frozen over in which to land).

I am working on a number of photos showing these migrating birds on ice, but I thought I’d share this initial image. The goose to the left seemed to be sounding the alarm, signalling the others that it was time to fly away. As you can see from his open mouth, he was honking loudly and was flapping his wings. If you focus your attention on his feet, it looks like he may be slipping on the ice as a result of his vigorous actions. The two geese in the background appear to be ignoring him and all of his noise, although they may have joined him when he took off a few seconds later.

alarm

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