How to Take Great Winter Close-ups

February 7, 2012 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

Sometimes during prolonged periods of very low temperatures and calm conditions, and particularly when accompanied by freezing fog, large ice crystals can built up on solid surfaces such as rocks, tree branches, even frozen water surfaces.  These fern-like crystals were extremely fragile and any contact would have caused them to collapse. I lay flat out on a frozen loch surface with the camera (on a Benbo tripod) close to surface level and to make the detail stand out, an angle of view was chosen to set the crystals against an area of ‘black’ ice.  A small aperture of f22 on a 100mm macro lens was used because of the way the crystals were fanned out in all directions, although even this barely gave adequate depth of field.

Winter Photography in Glencoe

Just as fragile were these ice crystals on the shore near the head of Loch Eil, a Scottish sea loch. They were almost suspended in thin air, supported only by minimal contact with underlying seaweed which can just be seen. The ice had formed at high water and as the tide receded the ice was left supported - even vibrations of walking nearby caused the delicate sheet to collapse and tripod legs had to be very carefully positioned to avoid extensive destruction. Going in close with a 100mm macro lens has revealed wonderful detail that could so easily be overlooked.

Winter Photography in Glencoe

So when next the opportunity arises, explore the fascinating world of details and abstracts that winter can offer.

Duncan McEwan is a tour leader for Light & Land Photographic tours and workshops and leads tours to the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Eigg.  For more details on Duncan’s tours as well as the complete range of photographic tours and workshops available, visit or call to speak to one of the team on 01432 839111.

To view more of Duncan’s own work you can also visit

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