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When Ice Takes Over the Trees

FOR a child in New England, there is no more splendid sound late at night than snow turning to freezing rain. A snowflake drops to earth in silence. But a flake on its way to becoming a drop of freezing rain hits crusting snow with a dull thud that echoes down country roads, city or suburban streets with a message to all children with ears to hear: No school in the morning.

No school, and even better - twigs that glow. It always seemed to me that twigs must live for first light after a freezing-rain storm.

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To be coated with ice is to amplify light - if only for a few hours. The structure of branch and twig, lost in lush summer greens, stands stark against winter skies.

But it's the ice and the light that force one to pause and to notice.

Neal J. Menschel's shot has helped ice and light along. His choice of focal distance silences background noise and shapes. What's left are strong dark verticals and points of pure light.

The dark shapes, like brush strokes across a Japanese watercolor, draw attention up and out. The drops hanging under tips of twigs could be ice turning to water, or water turning to ice. They balance the dark strokes and sustain interest in the patterns and activity of this shot.

A sweep of frozen branches in winter may not sound like an action shot, but this one is. It rekindles childhood wonder.

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