Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jack Frost

click photo to enlarge
"Look out, look out,
Jack Frost is about,
He's after our fingers and toes,
And all through the night
The gay little sprite
Is working where nobody knows.

He’ll climb each tree,
So nimble is he,
His silvery powder he’ll shake.
To windows he’ll creep
And while we’re asleep
Such wonderful pictures he’ll make.

Across the grass
He’ll merrily pass,
And change all its greenness to white.
Then home he will go
And laugh ho, ho ho!
What fun I have had in the night."
children's poem by C. E. Pike

On more than one occasion recently, when talking to friends of my sort of age, the subject of ice on windows has cropped up. Most people who grew up in the United Kingdom in the 1950s, and even the 1960s, unless they were very well-off or raised in modern houses, remember waking up on cold winter mornings to find ice on the inside of their single-glazed bedroom windows. It's something that my children find barely credible, and yet we thought nothing of it: that's just the way it was, and we appeared to be none the worse for it. Of course, it's not something I'd like to return to, and it's a phenomenon that these days I rarely see anywhere. But I did the other morning.

As I stood at the kitchen window watching the birds eating the seed and scraps that I'd put out for them I noticed my unheated greenhouse (glasshouse) was iced up. At a distance it looked like the ice had formed the sort of feathery patterns that I remember from my childhood. So, I grabbed the LX3 and went to investigate. There were patterns, and they were best seen from inside the greenhouse. Those on the roof were the most elaborate and, remarkably, each pane of roof glass had a quite different pattern. Some were more foliage-like, in a very William Morris chintz way, others resembled feathers that were either very fluffy or quite sparse. I took a few shots then I found one feathery pane with good contrast and light that displayed the patterns in a way that the camera could better record - see above.

The other thing I remember from these cold childhood mornings is my mother reciting the first few lines of the "Jack Frost" poem (above) as she pointed out the frost patterns. I know some schools still teach these verses to young children, but do parents? Perhaps there is less cause now that central heating and cars have all but banished the "wonderful pictures" and the need to experience cold from our lives.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On