Macro Photography: How to Photograph Frost & Ice

Freezing weather creates some fantastic opportunities for close-up studies, so don the thermals and explore the world in miniature. Autumn colours are an obvious and rewarding subject to tackle at the right time of the year, but what is perhaps a little less obvious is the photographic potential that the colder nights bring. As the nights get longer the chance of overnight temperatures dropping below zero degrees Celsius increases day by day, and so does the prospect of a magical covering of frost. This miracle of nature that coats everything in ice crystals transforms even the most mundane of subjects into something of real beauty. But what makes frosty mornings so special is that very often the day dawns clear and sunny, so not only are there a plethora of subjects to train your lens on but the light is fantastic as well. What’s not to like?

Ironically, frosts are most likely to occur in periods of calm sunny weather when the temperature plunges at night without a fluffy blanket of clouds to hold in the warm air generated during the day. On evenings like this the air temperature drops like a stone, and so long as it stays clear during the night you can be pretty sure that you’ll wake up to frost in the morning. Keeping an eye on the local weather forecast will also help you to plan your photography for the next day. Get yourself geared up and ready to go out early to catch the best of the frost and the light.

So what are the kinds of subjects should you look for? Here are a few examples and some details about how I took each shot.

Sycamore Leaf

This sycamore leaf immediately struck me because of its simplicity. It’s not the most colourful leaf in the world, but the coating of frost had accentuated the structure and form of the decaying veins, and it was this detail I wanted to record.

how to photograph frost and ice

I composed the shot making use of the natural symmetry of the veins, with the central vein running up the middle of the frame. An alternative approach would have been to place the central vein diagonally. The camera was on a tripod and positioned vertically above the leaf so that it was in the same plane of focus. It’s worth spending time to get the camera position spot on so that as much of the subject is as sharp as possible. This can be a bit fiddly to get right and involves checking all corners of the frame until you get it right.

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