After the beauty of autumn has faded away, and the trees are bare and the hills pale, Ashland and the Rogue Valley–while still pretty–are not at their most photogenic. But there is one winter weather condition that we drop everything for and grab our cameras: hoar frost. From November to March, when the conditions are just right, these spiky ice crystals cover everything in sight. And when the hoar frost is accompanied by fog, an otherwise mundane scene is suddenly transformed into a delicate, ethereal landscape. Here are some of our favorite hoar frost images from the past few years.
I love that these tracks are on my daily commute to work. I always admire the photographic potential of this scene, but this particular early December day was really special. The heavy fog hid the horizon, allowing the poles to fade away into the mist. This being Ashland, I didn’t have to wait long for someone to ride by on a bike.
“Frosted Oak” – Sue Newman
This craggy oak lives just north of town in a big field. In any other season, it doesn’t stand out much at all, but throw on some frosty jewelry and a bit of sunlight and it’s suddenly the star of the show.
Hoar is an Old English adjective referring to old age, which is how hoar frost got its odd name: It reminded people of white hair. Looking at it close up, you can see that the ice crystals form on top of each other. That’s because when a very cold surface comes in contact with frozen fog, the water molecules condensate directly into ice. The more moisture in the air, the more crystals form. In this photograph, taken at Hagardine Cemetery on Sheridan Street, the hoar frost has taken over a twig and spider web.
I shot this at the North Mountain Nature Center on our lunch break a couple of years ago. The red dogwood twigs always stand out in the winter, but when the frost covers them, they become ethereal. I was having a hard time capturing that feeling until I got real close with my camera and focused in on the ice crystals.
The only thing I have to say about this image was that I shot it from my back yard.
I’ll always remember this picture as it was my first experience shooting hoar frost. Being from New England, I am plenty familiar with frost, but rarely with such long spikes clinging to everything in sight. So when I looked out the window and saw it for the first time, I couldn’t wait to go out and play! This shot, taken near Phoenix east of I-5, was one of the last ones I took that morning, making my first hoar frost adventure feel pretty successful.
Fog can even make the irrigation ditch look good. Add some frosty teasel and a calm reflection, and you barely notice the muck on the banks.
You’ve heard of storm chasers. On this day we were fog chasers. We started in Ahsland and followed this band all the way to Central Point. We finally caught up to it near Touvelle State Park where I got this shot from the bridge over the Rogue.
The real drama happens when the fog begins to lift, allowing the sun to poke through and fill the frost with light. These conditions are often fleeting, so we try to grab as many shots as we can when they do occur. This little sunburst gave me one of my all-time favorite road photos.
Jay and I almost missed this one! Ashland was absolutely covered in white ice crystals and the fog was thick. Looking for a wide view of town, we raced to one of our favorite shooting spots on Eagle Mill Road before the fog lifted, which always seems to happen at around noon. We were lucky this day—the fog held on and the sunrays broke through long enough to fire off a few shots. A few short minutes later, the fog was gone and the frost had melted.
About NewmanImages: We are two seasoned weekend wanderers who know where to find beauty in any direction from Ashland. You can find prints and greeting cards of frost and fog in our booth at the Ashland Artisan Emporium in the Ashland Shopping Center on Highway 66. (Walk in, take a right, go to the 2nd row from the end, we’re the first booth on the right.)