Ice, Rivers, and Ponds: Photos and Reflections

It has not been a year with a lot of snow for people in Wisconsin to enjoy. So I have turned more of my attention to looking for ice to appreciate.


And I feel that my attention has been rewarded with a lot of pleasure. There are general pleasures that come from seeing ice cover the surface on lakes, ponds, and rivers. And there are the moments of excitement when I first see something that looks magical. There are so many potential forms ice can take, particularly when combined with snow, other ice, and other aspects of the landscape!

As the preceding picture suggests, one can appreciate how ice spreads broadly over an area (that was taken in a wetland). I enjoy walking around and seeing the different ways in which each new day brings different patterns. Some are unusual, some I find unpleasant – some I find breathtaking. In the above photo, I love the interplay of bright sun and tree shadows; how the piles of snow appear to transform a wetland landscape into ‘floor/plain’ and ‘ridges that rise above.’ And snow has much to offer! Even a little dusting can add a lot, as the next picture suggests. Often, when I take photos to remember what I saw, I like to look closely to appreciate the play of pattern on a small scale.

DSC03777Sometimes these pictures were taken from a distance. I must emphasize that ice is dangerous – do not take risks in order to catch a moment in a photo. As this post shows, there are plenty of amazing views and photos one can get while remaining on shore, or while walking on various types of bridges constructed over watery areas.

I admit that many of these moments are ones that I do not enjoy for long. A good number of photos in this post were taken when the temperature was in the single digits (Fahrenheit). But they become moments I can remember through photographs. In the warmer months, I can warm my heart by recalling the winter adventures I had, when I felt a bit of a sting in the air, and saw wonder after wonder…

DSC03819DSC03821… and I looked closely. What are the forms water takes in various types of freezing conditions?DSC03831How do things look from different angles? I found spots where I could sit on the shore, sometimes on rocks, and zoom in (perhaps aided by lying down to get the angle I wanted).

And I want to stress the fact that these are all photos taken in Wisconsin towns and cities! I saw some amazing photos of frost flowers taken in the far north. They are part of the magic that is cold weather. But my photos are stunning glimpses of what we can enjoy in our places in Wisconsin! We do not need to travel far to do so. We can bundle up to protect ourselves, play it safe, and appreciate what the cold has to offer. Here, in OUR places.DSC03818This photo, and the next few photos, will suggest some of the ways in which patterns can overlap. Find a good spot – a somewhat protected spot on the lakeshore, a spot where a river or stream widens – and you can see, day after day, a whole variety of patterns. Something different each day, and the patterns formed on a previous day will have something new overlaid on them to appreciate. Sometimes on a small scale, as above – sometimes on a large scale, as below:DSC03835One can appreciate these overlaps which, I think, are formed over the course of days. And one can also observeDSC03810the patterns which may include those formed at different moments in a day. Rivers and lakes often allow one to see scenes like this, with different ‘zones’ formed at different moments, sitting in bands.DSC03838The foam in the above photo was, I suspect, on its way to becoming some interesting formations like those in the photo below. I am not always sure if the sources of some of the beauty I see are sustainable practices (is there waste heat being kicked into the water? are the brown patterns I see signs of something unhealthy?). Winter is no escape from the challenges of determining connections between beauty and health. But whatever the causes, the branchings and curlings of organic-form-building can be seen here. Sometimes frozen for us to see, sometimes there in more tentative forms:DSC03814So when we have cold days in Wisconsin, remember – wherever you are, there is a lot of beauty out there, waiting for you to discover it!

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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3 Responses to Ice, Rivers, and Ponds: Photos and Reflections

  1. All photos by and copyright Jeff Filipiak.

  2. Matt Filipiak says:

    Wonderful thoughts and words. Wonderful photos. Winter sure is wonderful!

  3. Pingback: Walk Across Lake Winnebago, 3: Photos and Reflections from the 2015 walk | MilwaukeeSnow

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