Pic of the Week 12/17/21: "Hoarfrost"

December 17, 2021  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 12/17/21


Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK. 

Date taken: 1/3/21



HoarfrostHoarfrostFrozen water vapor crystalizes on old log. The sidelight reveals fantastic swirling patterns in the wood.


It was a cool and crisp morning in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I had just spent the early morning photographing a different location and now I walked back to the 4Runner for a much needed pick-me-up. I rubbed my hands together and blew on them to help warm them. I opened the back of the 4Runner and grabbed my camping stove, poured some water in the cup, and attached a small container of butane. Withing seconds I could hear the hiss of a flame heating the bottom of the cup and bringing the water inside to a steady boil. I reached in a plastic bag and pulled out a packet of Swiss Miss hot cocoa. Is there a better way to enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate? I pondered as I looked on to the prairie and mountains in front of me.

The sun was now rising above the peaks shooting beams of golden sunlight on the prairie, and in my face. I took a sip of the warm beverage and my glasses immediately fogged over from the steam. A breathed a sigh of comfort and watched as my exhale condensed in the cold air. It wasn’t all that cold, but the air had a denseness to it that sometimes happens after a winter event. A few days ago, there was a winter storm that moved through the area and dropped about 4 inches of snow. But like most of the winter events in the southern plains, it was short-lived and gone by the next day. Temperatures were supposed to reach the low 50’s by late morning, so we would be in for some excellent hiking weather.

I sat at the end of my vehicle enjoying the morning and sipping the hot chocolate. Something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. “Is that snow?” I thought to myself. A few dollops of snow had congregated in a hollowed out log laying off the side of the road. Curious, I walked over for a closer investigation. Sure enough it was snow. Although it was cool to look at, I didn’t think it would make much of a photograph, but since my camera was in hand, I snapped a few photos for documentation. As I walked around the dead log the sun broke through the trees around and scattered light on the log and that’s when I saw the hoarfrost. On the bare wood frozen water vapor crystals had collected in the nooks and crannies of the log. The sun backlighting the crystals which seemed to gleam in the sunlight. I quickly snapped some more images, but the lens I had was too short. I needed something to get me closer.


Wider shot of the hoarfrost on the dead log. It looks like there was even more potential with this subject, but the conditions were fleeting so fast I had to act quickly.

 Knowing I probably had just a few minutes before it all melted away, I swiftly changed to my macro lens and set up my tripod and found an excellent close-up image of the remarkable patterns.  Every second the light inched closer and closer into my composition, and I managed to capture three images before the light had fully smothered the scene. The grayish-white frost contrasted well against the dark bark and wood of the tree. Additionally, the wonderful complimentary color scheme of the blue ice to the yellow sunlight added even more drama and depth to the image.  For whatever reason, this image remained unedited on my hard drive all this time. Maybe it got overshadowed by the image I intentionally captured that day. Either way, it was nice to revisit this photo and share with everyone. I really love those swirling patterns of the wood. This photo feels more like a painting, and it reminds of Van Gough’s “Starry Night” painting. Coincidentally, that is one of my all-time favorite paintings.



I, too, thought of Van Gough's painting of starry night when I saw your photo! I just read about different frosts and to see the hoarfrost up close was beautiful!
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