Best of DTR: A good icing

I’ve spent most of my spare time recently writing my Michigan Road report. I hope to finish it this weekend and then get back to blogging! Meanwhile, I’ve dusted off and edited one of my earliest posts in honor of this lingering winter.

As much as I don’t enjoy winter, I have to admit that Indianapolis winters usually aren’t that bad. We do get one, maybe two, heavy snows each year. The city can never plow the streets fast enough; more than once, my commute home has turned into a four-hour endurance test. And every winter seems to have a few days cold enough that I need my wool-lined Army-surplus trench coat that has repelled every wind for the 20 years I’ve owned it. I needed that old coat as I cleared a foot of snow off my driveay after this recent storm. Otherwise, during Indy winters the ground is clear and I wear a medium jacket.

During my South Bend kidhood, snow was on the ground from November to April. Oh, the snow forts I built and snowball fights I, well, lost because I can’t throw straight to save my life. But whatever love of snow I might have had died when I was about nine – my dad issued me a shovel and told me to hit the driveway. There were times we shoveled two or three times a day for five days at a stretch. I routinely shoveled in the blowing cold. And how the cold wind could blow in South Bend! I remember walking to and from school in winds so strong and cold that I would sometimes walk for blocks sideways, legs braced, so my back could take the brunt.

Terre Haute’s temperate winters made it seem like a distant foreign land. Snows always melted within a few days, and I could usually run around with an unzipped coat and no hat. But Terre Haute was prone to ice storms, and several hit while I lived there. They always disrupted life by snapping power lines and turning the roads into skating rinks. But the ice storms could sure leave some beauty behind. Everything would be coated in a layer of ice, making ordinary things such as trees and street signs and fences seem fresh and clean – and stiff. I remember driving down I-70 on my way back to college a couple days after an ice storm. The trees lining the road seemed like ghosts as their white-tipped branches hung low and still.

After an ice storm in about 1990, I chipped a half inch of ice off my car with considerable effort and drove the slippery roads to work with considerable care. I wished I had time to snap photos of some of the storm’s work. When I got to the office, I found the building dark and cold. My co-workers huddled in the breakroom drinking gas-station coffee. The power company didn’t know when power would be restored, and even then it would take hours for our computer servers to boot. I didn’t fancy shivering in the dark breakroom all day, so I drove back home, found my camera, and walked a block to Collett Park to take some photos. My photography skills were, charitably, weak, but some of the photos turned out all right.

I came upon this young oak near the horseshoe club’s pit. The tree must not have been too strong, given that it was propped up like that. But its leaves were awfully tenacious, still clinging to the tree well into winter. Even the ice storm’s strong winds couldn’t break these leaves free. Instead, the ice conformed itself to the leaves.


The mature trees, having long ago lost their leaves, glowed in a quarter-inch coating of ice.


The ice weighed the branches down, making them hang low.

Branches heavy with ice

The nets on the tennis court glistened, frozen stiff.


I would have thought an ice-covered slide would be lightning slick, but I thought twice about trying it when I saw ice clumped up down the middle, ready to assault my sensitive parts.

A very slippery slide

This fence looked like a Photoshop “unsharp mask” effect had been applied to it in real life – except that nobody had really heard of Photoshop yet.

Chain link fence at Collett Park

The storm also left ice appearing to drip off the clothesline and power lines in my back yard.

Ice along a clothes line


3 responses to “Best of DTR: A good icing”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Oh, Jim, wow! It’s not that really want everything in Toronto weighed down by 1/4″ of ice, but I have to admit, I’ve been waiting years for the chance to take some shots like those. Back about 20 years ago I can remember walking through a park with a buddy on a winter evening when the trees were hung with ice like that. It was heavily overcast, we were surrounded by fences and dark back yards, and the only light came from the numerous overhead lights on the paths. In spite of the cold and the damp, it was about the most beautiful I’ve ever seen the world. Your photos make me yearn for that all over again. If you get the chance again, you should reshoot after sunset in well-lit areas… honestly, you won’t believe your eyes.

  2. Jim Avatar

    LP, the most beautiful post-ice-storm scene was that drive down I-70 I touched on. The endless trees, white branches all hanging low, had an eerie quality. Not that I’m hoping for an ice storm here, either, but it sure would be great to shoot another one with the much better equipment I have today.

  3. treadway Avatar

    I am wondering if this was the year my kids would sit on their bottom without a sled and slide down the hill…there was a hard, hard crust of ice on top of the snow. Hard to walk any where.

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