The world is taking “a gentle pause” and many of our lives came to a halt in order to get through these challenging times of COVID-19. Perhaps it will never go back the way it was. Nobody knows. Whether you are a photographer who is waiting for your photography to rebound or a parent who has been stuck at home homeschooling your kids and is looking for a fun project on a rainy day, creating an abstract art of capturing frozen flowers could be a project that might grab your interest.
Many professional or amateur photographers feel that in order to get a worthy photo one has to travel to exotic places. This might be not possible for some time so finding things that are around you is a reasonable solution. If you appreciate the subtle beauty of flowers why not try something different. Your backyard offers plenty of opportunities to get creative. Don’t have a luscious garden? Many grocery stores offer wonderful bouquets of fresh-cut flowers at a very reasonable price.
WHY FROZEN FLOWERS?
A few years ago I needed something interesting to put in a local photography art competition and freezing a flower (a pink rose) at that particular time sounded like a great idea. Initially, this was an experiment that accidentally became my passion….or some might call it my current obsession. I guess what I like most about it is that every arrangement is always different. As it freezes, the bubble formations will create a new random pattern. I have been working on various art pieces over the past 3 years and have experimented with several methods that work best and am happy to share them with you.
It sounds easy but there is a bit of science behind the process. Water freezes at 0 °C or 32 °F. The colder it gets the molecules in the water slow down and become denser. So when is water at its densest? Well, it turns out this happens around 4°C or 39 °F. At this point this contraction compresses the flower in the water and squeezes out all the oxygen. Then as the ice again slightly expands it slowly “stretches” out the bubbles to form those beautiful trails which are fun to photograph. The best thing is that you just never know what the final outcome will be. Expect the unexpected!
LET’S GET STARTED
What kind of flowers are best for freezing? You can choose from all kinds of flowers including roses, tulips, daffodils, rhododendrons, daisies, wildflowers to obtain an interesting array of colours and various compositions. I personally use mostly flowers from my garden that are in season at that particular time.
Now we get to the most tricky part. What kind of water should I use? Usually, our home’s tap water is treated with chemicals to make it safe to drink which is not great for making clear ice….great to practice with for the first time! The aim is to make as clear ice as possible so you can still see the delicate beauty of the flowers. I have also tried boiling the water, but had somewhat mixed results. So far, I used distilled water with the best results. Bottled water may or may not be distilled, so be sure to check the label. Boiling water (including the distilled) twice is the best way to make sure you start your ice-making journey with the best quality of water. Now let the water cool after the first boil, and cover it with a lid to prevent any dust or other pieces of dirt from getting into your art project. Once your water has cooled off to Now it’s time to room temperature, boil it again and allow it to cool down before beginning putting any flowers into it.
Now it’s time to find a suitable container. Some people choose glass, some use metal tins and some prefer plastic. Truly, there is not a huge difference between them. A wide and relatively shallow plastic container would work best. My advice is to use what you have.
I personally prefer to use a small cooler. Why is that? The best way in obtaining a crystal clear ice is by Directional Freezing. Directional Freezing is a simple method to make clear ice by controlling the direction the water freezes. It allows water to freeze into ice from one direction and the ice to be clear until the very last part is almost frozen. Traditionally this method is done by freezing water inside a cooler without the lid off. Only the bottom portion will have some cloudy particles.
Now that you have chosen your container, drop your flower (or flowers) in. Flowers contain oxygen, and oxygen is lighter than water. This means that chucking flowers into your container full of water and freezing will not work as well. The flowers will simply float to the surface, stick out of the ice and wither away. What I found works best is to position the flower the way you feel it would look best. For example roses I lay towards the bottom of the container as I want to capture the beautiful bloom…plus they are heavier than most flowers and are the easiest to work with. Tulips I usually lay down on their side. Rhododendrons are very light and I use several blooms when freezing them. Pour in a small amount of water that barely covers them but they are not floating. Move the container in the freezer and let the small amount of water freeze over, trapping parts of the flowers and anchoring them so that they can’t float in subsequent layers of water. Once the first layer is frozen, pour a few extra inches of COLD water (if you pour warm your first layer will crack) over the flowers and existing ice. Be careful not to add too much, only enough to cover the flowers. Return the container back to the freezer.
It takes several hours for it to be frozen. I usually assemble it early in the morning and that way I know I have my “frozen project” ready to be photographed in the afternoon.
When you are ready to photograph, place the container upside down in a warmer location so that the ice will loosen. I try not to run the container under warm water as you could end up with a few unwanted cracks. When the ice has loosened, gently tap the container and the ice should slide out very easily.
I usually do this outdoors on my wooden deck rail. The natural light allows it to penetrate through your ice flower sculpture and by being outside I don’t have to worry about wet puddles. I use a white towel underneath my project so it will not slide off the deck rail. Now that you’ve created your icy flower sculpture, it’s time to photograph it before it starts melting. Look at the bottom including all sides of the ice block for any interesting effects and go wild and create some wonderfully abstract photographs of your frozen flowers from various angles.
What is the best lens and setting to use? A macro lens is an ideal option, but it is not strictly necessary unless you are photographing a really small piece of ice sculpture. You will get beautiful results with a 50mm which I usually use. Set your depth of field at around F8 to F11 and ISO at 100.
If freezing flowers is not exactly your type of project, there are many other ideas to keep busy with photography during this pandemic.
So don’t let the COVID-19 quarantine put a stop to your creativity.