Ice photography tutorial

Ice photography is simple to do, but there are one or two things you need to keep in mind. Here's a tutorial to help you get it right.

I’ve recently spent a lot of time focusing on the technical aspects of my photography. Very often, however, the subject matter is the crucial element of the image and that’s what I have concentrated on with this example of ice photography.

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A seasonal example of ice photography. The classic example is to photograph a flower frozen in ice, but I went for something a bit more festive.

When it comes to photographing ice, there’s a classic shot many photographers take, and that’s a flower frozen in a block of ice. I decided to go for something a bit more seasonal and froze a Christmas decoration. The image was taken in a dark room and back-lit by a candle, hence the distinctive glow.

As you can possibly imagine, my kids were totally confused by the fact I was placing Christmas decorations in the freezer. My wife, meanwhile, didn’t even question what I was up to, clearly demonstrating that she has been married to me long enough to accept my eccentricities!

Taking an image like this is very simple, but it does take time because you have to freeze the water in two or three layers. Here ‘s what you do:

  • Choose an item to freeze.
  • Freeze half a centimetre of water in a container. One frozen, place your item on top of the ice, pour on a few milimetres of water and freeze again. Repeat until it is completely covered (if you try freezing in one go, your subject is likely to either sink to the bottom or float to the top).
  • When rock solid, you will probably find the ice is opaque. The trick is to leave it for 20 minutes or so, by which point it should be transparent or near-transparent and ready for photographing.
  • You’re now ready to take pictures so go and experiment. It being Christmas, one of my daughters’ Christingles was in the room so I turned off all the lights, lit the candle and placed it behind the block of ice. This is what’s given it that distinctive yellow glow.
  • As for camera settings, I took a number of pictures in close up mode that were perfectly good. This particular image, however, was taken in manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/100sec, aperture set to f7.1 and ISO set to 6400.

On seeing the final picture, my eldest daughter, Helen, took one look at it and said simply “black and white.” At her suggestion, here’s a black and white version of the same image.

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A black and white version of the above image. Which do you prefer?

I hope you like these images and these tutorial-style blog posts. I am thinking of moving to this style of blog post when I produce photographic features in future. I’d be interested to know if you like that proposal so do please leave a comment below.

I’d also love to know if you like the images. If you try it for yourself, do let me know how you get on.

I shall be adding this post to the brilliant #MySundayphoto linky which you will find on the Photalife blog. Do pay the linky a visit. I’ve been participating in the linky for some time now and it closes next week so go and pay a visit while you still can.

14 thoughts on “Ice photography tutorial”

  1. It looks fantastic in either black and white or colour. I definitely enjoy reading about how you create your photos. One day, when the kids have all left home (and I’ve got a new DSLR), I might even get a chance to try some of these things out!
    Merry Christmas to you all.

    1. Thanks Sarah. The trick may be to get the kids involved! Or would they huff at you and call you boring and out of touch?

  2. The image looks so lovely but even better is the way you describe what you did so articulately. I’m a happy snapper but I love to see and try to understand how photos could be taken properly! Wishing you a very happy Christmas,

  3. This is brilliant John, I’m going to give this a go over the Christmas.

    I wish you and the family the most amazing Christmas.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and thank you for linking up to #MySundayPhoto

  4. I don’t know what’s funnier your kids’ bemusement or your wife’s whatever he’s nuts attitude. Haaa, so I’m not the only one but extra points for your energy this time of year, John, it turned out really cool. For some reason your process reminds me of making an ice cream bomb.
    I agree with your daughter, black and white, but then again I’m partial to black and white. Did you mean just a dark room or do you have a darkroom?
    I was thinking about the gap Darren’s absence will leave and wonder if you might give it a try? I think you’d have a lot more success with a Sunday linkup than I did.
    I’m very sorry to hear about your father-in-law and know how difficult that empty chair can be. But I feel we are still here to celebrate those we’ve loved and lost.
    Merry Christmas to you my talented friend and the best of the season to you and your family.

    1. Thanks Jeanna, such a lovely comment. There was an empty chair this year but it is mereley a sign I am getting oder. Even so, we had a wonderful family Christmas.

      Will I try a link up of my own? It crossed my mind but I feel it might be too much work, truth be told. I do balance blogging with looking after the kids and a link up might tip[ the balance too far in the blog’s direction.

      I will be back to visit your blog. I really enjoy the humour in your posts.

  5. That’s great. My flowers in ice weren’t great because the water round here is so hard and cloudy. It needed mineral water or istilled to get it clear. Too much effort for me!

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