Capturing Frozen Flowers

“The camera adds a certain sheen to things. Something about being frozen in time makes things sparkle.” Brandon Stanton

This time of year, I dive into capturing the essence of winter, especially frozen things. I often get up early to go out and shoot the morning frost, take a winter walk near creeks or ponds that have frozen over, and at least once a year captures a nice snowfall. I also enjoy the idea of creating frozen images at home. I have been studying artists like Paloma Rincon who creates incredibly artistic images of frozen flowers. Or artists like Lisa Sorgini who uses sparkling water to enhance her frozen subjects. The photo series, Zero Degrees by artist Bruce Boyd is a beautiful example of creatively capturing the softness of flowers with the stark contrast of the cold of ice. 

I have photographed frozen flowers for many years and played around with various techniques. It is something that always sounds easy, but I have had varied results. This winter holiday, I decided to spend some time on it and try to refine my technique. Here are my essential tips and learnings from many years of trial and error. 

Keyways to capture frozen flowers: 

Containers: Any container will work, glass, metal, cardboard, plastic. I have learned the hard way that plastic or cardboard ( milk carton) is by far the best option. My go-to will be milk cartons of all sizes if you have them available. Once frozen solid, you can peel the carton away from the ice without having to melt the ice at all. Using a milk carton allows you to have a solid block of ice to work with. Glass is an option, but know that you will not be able to remove the block of ice for a while. I usually run warm water over it until it pops loose on the sides, and then I remove it. 

Water: Distilled water works the best or sparkling water for bubbles. Some tap water will cause the ice to have a darker white look to it. Try to use filtered if you have it available. 

Subjects: Any flowers, leaves, herbs will work—the more colorful, the better as they will stand out in the ice. Try using single stems, groups of flowers, or even create a bouquet in the container. 

Process: Start by adding flowers to your container. The flowers can fill the entire box; they can be partially in the water or sticking out of the container like in a vase. Then fill the container 1/2 way with water. Stick in your freezer. I prefer not to place a lid on the box; it keeps the ice clearer. Once it has almost frozen, add some more cold water until the flower is fully submerged.  After a few hours, you can remove the container and begin to photograph. 

Light: Light is critical for capturing the frozen flowers. Use lamps, LED lights, flash, or place the ice block in a window on a bright day. The light will help bring out the detail of the flowers in the container. 

Backgrounds: Think about your canvas.  I often shoot my frozen flowers on a white surface or use blue scrapbook paper to add a hint of blue to the images. Get creative. Shooting on paper can enhance the image and bring out more details. 

In my latest attempt at shooting frozen flowers, I created frozen vases for the flower. The trick with this technique is that the flower bud freezes, so you have to be ready to shoot it when you bring it out of the freezer. The flower bud begins to melt very quickly. 

I am continuing to modify and learn more about capturing objects in a frozen state. I hope you will enjoy trying these techniques and creating your winter masterpieces. 

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