Winter is beginning to lose its grip. The days are getting longer and warmer. The subtle signs are unmistakable, especially in the activities and songs of the birds. Soon the spring migrations will begin and I will have to say good bye to working with ice. It is frequently too warm now during the day to work with it and I shall miss it. In these last days of winter, I have to create my pieces at night hoping for a decent sky the next day for good photos. But March is an unpredictable time and often the day does not unfold as is forecast on the weather reports...unfortunately.
This piece has a rather amazing story behind it...literally ! First off, it was very difficult to construct. It has 6 regular sides made by vertical icicles. A conical roof of short, fat icicles and walls of delicate, lacy slab ice that I collected from freezing standing water as the day cooled down and all the snowmelt refroze. It broke several times and in several places as I was making it. I nearly gave up on it...more than once !
I had hoped to create something that would nestle in amongst the balsams and look delicate and festive...I added some frozen red berries from a fruiting asparagus plant I had harvested last autumn thinking the berries might make a lovely addition to an ice house. They did, especially when dusted with snow. At 2 am it all looked luscious and sugar glazed.
The next day the house was finished and I knew where I was going to put it for the photos....but the sun was held hostage all day long. I was challenged to remain calm, but it was difficult... the temperatures hovered right around 34 degrees. The ice warmed dangerously ... delicate detail bits began to fall off, the sugary frosting melted...I was in anguish ! Two days worth of work was puddling before I had a chance to capture it in the camera !!! I NEEDED the sun !! All afternoon I kept hoping. The place I had chosen would no longer work as it would now be in shadow if the sun did come out. I moved the piece (VERY carefully !) several times hoping for better light....none came. I was so disappointed because rain was forecasted for that night and I would forever loose the chance to document this sculpture.
Finally, the sky began to show more blue but the sun was still hidden behind bands of clouds... in desperation I decided to at least try and capture the weak sunset light. I set everything up and began shooting but it was flat light and not nearly bright enough. I was very discouraged. With nothing else to loose, I said a little prayer to the Ice Faeries, the Ice Elementals and to Anyone else who might be listening.....could I please have just a little more sun to make this shot work?
I sat back and waited. Suddenly, my eye caught a sundog forming on the right side. I moved my tripod to capture it hovering over the house and felt very grateful for that ray of hope. Then things began to happen very fast. The halo effect appeared and I could barely move the camera fast enough to catch it... I had to switch lenses and as I did a rare upper tangent arc appeared right above the house...I was astonished and giddy with joy ! Unfortunately, the arc faded just as I got the second lens on, but still the halo survived...and a warm glow of sunset warmed everything up...just enough. I felt so grateful, so deeply grateful ! Later I learned that sundogs and other halo phenomenon are formed by the sun refracting in various ways through the SIX SIDED ice crystals present high in the atmosphere.... I remembered that this house had 6 sides (the only one I had made this year with 6 sides) and smiled at the connection.
After I was done shooting, I quietly watched the sun slip behind the mountains. The halo had lasted for only a few minutes but I was there to see it surround the sculpture with its blessings. I left the little house right where it was in the meadow and told the Ice Faeries they could party all night in it for as long as they liked. It was my gift to them in gratitude for the magical assistance which was very much needed to get this image.
If you'd like to learn more about ice halos, this is a good site: