What we got wasn’t quite as bad as what had been predicted, but it was enough to be interesting. Mother and I stocked up the fridge Tuesday (it’s not like Florida where you have to worry about things melting if the power goes off) and hauled in a bunch of firewood. The latest delivery must be dry wood because we’ve gone through almost a whole season’s worth and it’s not yet March.
To be on the safe side, we decided to cut some trees that had fallen. When my back started hurting from bending over, I started looking up at the sky and thinking, “Any time now, any time. I could use an excuse to quit.”
NOW, you start
Well, wouldn’t you know it, just as I made my last cut, I felt something hit my sleeve. “NOW, you start,” I thought.
It started peppering down and turned the ground white pretty quickly. I was supposed to meet two friends at Wib’s for lunch. One bailed, but the other said he’d show if I did. I figured the roads had been treated enough that I-55 and Hwy 61 should be clear. What I didn’t count on was that the freezing rain had put a solid 1/4″ coating of ice over every exposed inch of my van. Even with deicer and the defroster running, it took a good 15 minutes to make big enough holes in the ice to see out.
Northbound on I-55, I fell in about a quarter mile behind a salt truck. The road was wet, but didn’t have any slush buildup yet. About halfway to Jackson, I came upon two wrecks in the median.
Snow PLOWS, not just salt trucks
While we were eating, it looked like the sleet had turned to some pretty heavy rain. As I pulled out of Wib’s, though, a snow plow passed with his plow down. That’s not a good sign, I thought.
The southbound ramp at the Fruitland intersection has a little grade to it. There was just enough standing slush to make me start to spin a couple of times. The road was now getting covered enough that you wanted to drive in the tracks of the vehicle in front of you. When I started up Kingsway Drive, I had to watch my foot on the accelerator to keep from spinning out. It was definitely getting slicker and I could see icy buildup on the power lines.
Whiskers of icicles
When I got to the driveway, bushes and trees in our yard were sporting whiskers of icicles. I shot a few pictures, but didn’t really want to get cold and wet. Retired, you know.
I went downstairs to get some work done and stayed there until after dark. The police scanner was busy with reports of fender-benders, trees and powerlines down and generally nastiness. That’s when I looked across the street and saw an ice-covered tree sparkling like a diamond-covered dowager at a Palm Beach ball. I couldn’t resist. I had to get in the car and cruise around. I did that with some trepidation, because I remember what happened on one of those excursions in my 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon.
As I pulled out of the driveway, I thought to myself, I owe some thanks to some folks. First, to Dad, for teaching me to be careful, but not afraid. To Mother (who uncharacteristically declined my offer of a ride-along) for teaching me to respect weather, but not to cower from it until that last minute before you have to run to the basement. That curiosity has led me to chase hurricanes and tornadoes and to convince Lila that it’s perfectly safe to stand next to the tallest thing around during a lightning storm so you can get a good photo..
And, to Sons Matt and Adam for giving me an early birthday present: a new 55-200mm Nikon lens. All but one of the photos here today were taken with that lens. It’s a honey. The only bad thing is that now I’m going to have to look for a second camera body because I hate switching lenses, particularly when it’s precipitating outside.
I’m glad I went out when I did. The way water was running in the streets, I think the temperatures are going to go above freezing and the ice may be gone before I drag myself out of bed.
Photo tips for shooting ice storms at night
- Safety first. Don’t get so busy looking for a photo that you drive into a tree or limb or power line across the road.
- Don’t count on your meter to automatically set your exposure because you’re going to be dealing with areas that have lots of blacks or lots of highlights in them. If the scene was mostly dark, I would tell the camera to underexpose by as much as two to three stops (four in a couple of cases). If the picture has a lot of lights or highlights, your meter is going to tell the camera to stop down because it wants to render those highlights as a neutral gray. You have to tell it, “Hey, I WANT those highlights to go hot: open up two to three stops more than the meter says.”
- A tripod or monopod is your friend. Some of these photos aren’t as sharp as I would like because they are all hand-held. It was just too chilly for me to muck around with a cold metal tripod for what you guys pay me. I lost several good shots because it’s hard to hold a camera steady at 1/4 or 1/2 second when you’re shivering.
- The only concession I made was to boost my base ISO to 400 instead of the usual 200, and to tell it to make the camera go to a higher ISO anytime the exposure time went under 1/60 of a second (I usually have it set for 1/30).
- I DID mention, be careful, right?
Don’t fight the light
You won’t realize how many different shades of light there are until you look at your photos. It’s not worth trying to correct for them in the camera, and it’s probably not worth trying to clean up the colors in post-production, either. Just appreciate them for what they’re worth and throw away the ones you can’t stand.
Gallery of ice photos
Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.