The Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge - Winter 2015

Pack Ice On The Frozen Susquehanna River

January 14, 2015 , , Barry Kidd
Macro of photo of a bull frogs face and eyes take with the Nikon D3 and the Micro-Nikkor 105 MM, f/2.8 AI-s lens
Racer on the starting gate and ready to race at Motorama 2015 in Harrisburg, PA
Sunrise photo of the cracked pack ice on the frozen Susquehanna River, Wrightsville, PA. Winter 2015

A few days ago I spent an evening and morning photographing the frozen Susquehanna River and the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge from Wrightsville, PA. Essentially I was testing out and quite frankly enjoying a new lens. Over the last 6 years I’d rented the super wide AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED from Nikon enough that I could have bought my own copy with the rental an shipping fees. I would only rent when I actually needed it but I really wanted my own copy. In the end enough was enough and I decided to take the plunge.

The lens arrived 3 or 4 days before I actually went down to the river to test it out. Though I was itching to give it a spin I hadn’t snapped so much as a single photo with it. Well, nothing beyond one or two hideous shots just to see if it worked and made it here unscathed.

An Evening Photographing The Frozen Susquehanna River


Above is a thirty second exposure of the cracked pack ice and Fraunhofer diffraction off the frozen Susquehanna River, Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, Wrightsville, PA. Winter 2015


I wanted to test out a new AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED that recently gotten. It arrived in the mail three days before but I hadn’t so much as mounted it to a camera and I was itching to take it out and snap a few shots. I figured Susquehanna River would be a perfect spot. This time of year it often freezes over. There were also lights all the way across the Wrightsville bridge. If I closed down the aperture and shot long exposure I should be able to get Fraunhofer diffraction.

Fraunhofer diffraction is that cool star like point of light that you get when shooting long exposure with a small aperture. It’s sorta the opposite of bokeh though not exactly. Rather than simply being caused by focus the shape and size have a lot to do with the color and or wave length of light. Perhaps I’ll get into Fraunhofer diffraction, as well as how and why it appears but that’s for another day. Anyway, the combination of pack ice on the river, diffraction of light and this supper cool, new lens I’d coveted for years should help create some interesting photos. When the wife got home from work I asked if she’d like to ride to the river with me and off we went.

We arrived at the river after sundown as we had planned. It was 3 degrees outside, that’s -16 Celsius for you non US folk, so it was quite chilly. Luckily there wasn’t so much as a breeze blowing that night so it wasn’t horrible. I was dressed quite warmly and had planned to be setting still in cold weather for sometime. The wife could have dressed a bit warmer. Better boots really but she wasn’t going to be laying down in the snow and ice like me so it worked it. Well, for the most part it worked out.

I really wanted to the the pack ice in the foreground so I set the tripod as low as it would go. Then I laid down beside it and snapped my first frame. I wasn’t really happy with the foreground so I decided that I needed to get closer. The only way to do that was to get out off the bank and out on the river a few feet. In doing so the ice broke under me and I fell into the river. Luckily I was wearing Gore Tex and the wife was there to help pull me out. If I’d of been alone I never would have attempted stepping out on an ice covered river. With the wife there I felt better about trying, was feeling frisky and really wanted the shot. Bad Idea.

After obviously deciding that getting on the ice covered Susquehanna River was a really bad idea I shot the rest of my photos from the bank. In the end I snapped 13 frames in about an hour. My favorite of which can be seen above.

Back to The Susquehanna River Again To Photograph The Sunrise

Here’s a sunrise photo of the cracked pack ice on the frozen Susquehanna River, Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, Wrightsville, PA. Winter 2015

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After having had reasonable success I decided to share another Kodak Moment with the beautiful Susquehanna River and her frozen pack ice the next morning. This would require waking up early and hitting the road before sunrise. My plan was to shoot from the Northwest, facing rising sun in the Southeast, and try and capture the sun as it rises. I wanted to get the sunlight shinning through the ice when it was an an acute angle and still low in the sky.

Once again I talked the wife in to getting up early, it was her day of. In the end it was her that had to drag me out of bed. How sad is that?! Having learned her lesson from the night before this time she was dressed more appropriately for the weather. Once my lazy ass was dressed I grabbed my camera and of we went.

Finding a suitable location I started shooting before the sun cracked the horizon. I snapped many more than the 13 frames that I captured the night before. Perhaps 35 or 40 this time but once the sun had risen above the bridge I shopped shooing because the heavy contrast and shadow detail I wanted was gone from scene. This time there was also none walking onto and falling in the river drama! This was much better for all involved. Most especially me.

The photo I selected out from the mornings shoot can be seen above. I like that you can in fact see the sun shining through the peeks of the ice. I also like the cool blue tones of the ice and sky with the warm glow of the rising sun both in the background and shinning through and on the ice. For the most part the color is natural and has no heavy post processing. I did pop the existing color and luminosity just a touch in the lab color space but that’s all.

The AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED From Nikon

In the end the Super wide angle, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, flat out rocks and I look forward to having access to it anytime rather than just when I need it. If you have any comments or anything to add please drop me a line in the comments below. The Susquehanna River and the Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge also ROCK and are a beautiful locations anytime of year. I’m surprised that I haven’t gone there to shoot more often. Perhaps these shots will inspire me, and you, to do just that.

Thank you for reading and y’all have a happy day.

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