Photo of the Week – February 3, 2012

I’ve always admired black and white photographers.

(Or at least photographers who take black and white photos…)

The photo below, however, is a color photograph.  It just happened that the scene was black and white.

Ice stalactites on the edge of a hole in a frozen stream. Lancaster County, Nebraska.

This photo was taken along a frozen stream in Lancaster County, Nebraska – just north of Lincoln.  The surface of the stream was frozen solid enough that I was able to walk on it, but there were a few places where the water beneath the ice was flowing strongly enough that it kept small holes in the ice open.  This image shows a portion of the edge of one of those holes.  (The hole was probably 2 or 3 feet in diameter.)

Because the water was flowing fairly fast, it splashed periodically, and those splashes – and subsequent drips – created stalactites of ice from the flat roof of ice over the water.  There were several holes with similar formations, but this was the most dramatic of the stalactites.

It was a bright overcast day with high thin clouds that eliminated shadows but still created a well-lit scene.  Cameras can only handle a certain range of light from bright to dark, so the degree of contrast between the white ice and the darker water below is what results in the black and white look of this image.  I wanted to be sure I captured the details in the bright white ice, but in doing that, the camera  was unable to also capture the full range of colors and tones in the much darker water below.  As a result, the water shows up in the photo as black.  In a delightful bit of serendipity, the glare from the bright sky reflecting on the dark water created some terrific highlights that both break up the dark background behind the ice and show the movement of the water beneath.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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3 Responses to Photo of the Week – February 3, 2012

  1. Mel says:

    Surprised you didn’t get a blue tinge in the shadows, even with overcast. There is a slight cool cast to it, like a selenium print.

    Love the rounded details in the ice. You caught the translucent nature of it perfectly.

  2. Tom Prunier says:

    Brings memories of walking on dangerous river ice as a teenager. Remember seeing ranks of these stalactites. Having never seen anything like this it was as if the world had just been created new for us that morning.

  3. Pingback: Ice Patterns | The Prairie Ecologist

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