By Douglas Capron Back to


The Hydrology series is a study of natural patterns that occur momentarily when water begins to transform into ice at the onset of winter. I was fascinated by the elaborate, unpredictable and beautiful shapes that were forming and morphing on a small lake in an urban park as winter temperatures started to descend. This particular crystallization process lasted approximately a week, as the temperature fluctuated, eventually evolving into solid ice. My intention was to express and share the ephemeral mystery of these patterns announcing the arrival of winter and to provoke reflection and an internal dialogue regarding the energy, complexity and beauty of the transition process from water into a solid state.

Regarding the phenomena on a molecular level, absolutely pure water will remain liquid until its temperature has dropped to -38.1°C. Therefore, crystallization will occur only when the first two molecules will lock together using some microscopic particles in the water as a nucleation point. A single bacterium, a speck of dust, or some other very tiny object is necessary to provide the initial template upon which the crystal begins. The uniqueness and variety of shapes is analogous to snowflakes.

The images were taken from a top down view, on a weighted tripod with spikes in place to remain stationary on the ice. Technically this project posed some problems.


First, the thickness of the ice barely supported my weight and was constantly giving warning signs, cracking and snapping periodically− which is why I did not venture out further than approximately 8 to 10 feet from shore in case I did break through.

Secondly, I had issues with auto-focusing, as the images were taken at night with only some ambient urban lighting. No flash was used, as the surface was highly reflective. Previously, the images I captured early morning and early evening did not provide enough contrast to satisfy what I was looking for, and the glare from the ice interfered with revealing detail.

I knew I had to shoot with small aperture settings to achieve deep depth of field as the patterns were forming on various levels, and it was difficult to discern where and what I was focusing on. After experimenting, I ended up needing exposure times varying from 2 to 3 minutes long. On the 70-200 and 100mm lenses I used f/25; on the 10-22 lens, f/22. I shot all of the series at 100 ISO.

I received a lot of comments asking if these were macro shots, even microscopic. Although I did use a macro lens for some of the images, they were taken with the tripod extended at its height, about 70 inches. The real life size of the patterns range from 8 inches in width to 6 feet, where the wide angle lens was used.

Post-production was essentially basic tonal adjust- ments in Photoshop, after converting to black and white. The Hydrology images are inkjet printed on an Epson printer on Hahnemuhle Fine Art matte paper, sized at 36″ on the long side for most of the series. Some of them are “ground-level” panoramics. Several images were brought together in Photoshop photomerge with the intention of larger print sizes. “Journey to the Sun,” for example, will print at 96″ wide. The series was recently presented at the Voies- Off Prize competition in Arles, France, and the im- ages were projected at night on the walls of the Archbishops Palace. I am currently working on a project to have the series printed on transparency media in backlit frames with LED lighting.

Product Resources: Camera: Canon 40D DSLR; Lenses: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS USM, Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro; Tripod: Benro C-168 M8 Carbon Fiber, Benro KJ-2 Monoball Ball Head; Remote: Canon RS-80N3; Memory: SanDisk Extreme III Flash Card; Software: Photoshop CS4; Printer: Epson 7800; Paper: Hahnemuhle Fine Art Matte.

Journey to the Sun

About the Author

Douglas Capron
Douglas Capron is an award-winning emerging photographer based in Montreal, Canada. His career in visual arts started with filming music videos. This opened the door to shooting portraits of musicians and designing CD covers, which inspired him to explore photography as an art form. He is currently working on a book of images from Japan to be published in 2011 and preparing to exhibit phase II of the Hydrology series, subtitled “In Praise of Ice,” examining the interaction of people and ice. For more info visit www.douglascapron.com.