Frigid Beauty

Critique Style Requested: In-depth

The photographer has shared comprehensive information about their intent and creative vision for this image. Please examine the details and offer feedback on how they can most effectively realize their vision.

Self Critique

I can’t even explain the way I am drawn to this location when it’s super cold. The ice is alive and changes daily! I love the fog and shadow rays above the trees, but I am a bit bothered that I have put the horizon very near the center! I tried cropping but didnt want to lose any more of the ice cracks or the tops of the trees and, I cant really lose any more from either side! Do you find the composition bothersome, or is the difference in textures enough to camouflage it?

Creative direction

My desire was to capture the essence of the Arctic conditions. The fog isn’t formed from the process that most fogs are, it is simply so cold, that any evaporating vapor is immediately condensed!

Specific Feedback

Is the lighting too dark? Its toned down a bit from what it was like in person. Does it feel cold? Does this image make you want to step in and look around (without the cold fingers!) Would love to hear any specific critique on any aspect of this image.

Technical Details

Nikon D850
Sigma Art 14-24mm f/2.8
ISO 64, f/10, 1/640, 14mm

I used Lightroom’s HDR function for this. I merged 3 images with various shutter speeds to manage the brighter areas.


Frigid Beauty

Liquid water is a fiercely unstoppable force. Even when the air temperature is 67 degrees lower than the freezing point of water, it continues to find the path of least resistance. As the Sun rose and the atmosphere had given up the last of its remaining heat, I knelt on the ice of the Gallatin River near Bozeman, Montana. It was stunningly cold; the kind of cold where you feel as if the air itself is trying to terminate your life. It was also strikingly beautiful; the kind of beauty that compels a photographer to leave the comfort of his vehicle and wander out along the river. I walked tentatively on the ice, not knowing how thick the ice was, nor how deep the water under it might be. Occasionally a loud crack could be not just heard, but felt. It could have been from expansion in the extreme cold, or from my own weight settling the unstable ice. I found a series of cracks formed by collapsing ice shelves that looked like it would make a compelling composition and went about capturing some images of it. This is when I heard another cold weather phenomenon. In the Cottonwood forest all around me, some of the sap within the trees froze and expanded. That pressure has to be released somewhere, and when it does, it fractures the wood in an astoundingly loud and deep “CRACK”. These cracks were the punctuation marks on the muffled roar of the slushy water that was the sentence structure of this moment. This water is super-cooled to the point where it might flow as a liquid, but when disturbed, it instantly freezes. It freezes to already frozen water. It freezes to stones on the bottom of the riverbed. When it’s this cold, the river appears to be more slush than water and it’s a wonder that the trout can survive. Speaking of survival, it was time to high-tail it back to the truck. The desire to warm my fingers was rising with a rapidly increasing sense of panic! All’s well that ends well, and I still have all my fingertips and even have a pretty good image to show for it!

Fascinating scene! I love the gold light against blue sky, the mist and the bare trees. The ice is very interesting but I agree it is a problematic composition. It’s not so much that the horizon is centered but that there is so much more interest in the sky, which feels crowded. Maybe a vertical comp with about the same point in the LR corner? Definitely a situation to revist if you can! (Take hand warmers – maybe a space suit.)