Sometimes a spot lends itself only to a certain type of photography, but glaciers provide it all. There are limitless opportunities for wide angle dramatic vistas, straight abstracts, or something inbetween like this photograph. Just the other day, I was able to produce quality images in all three of those genres with the addition of some “lifestyle” self-portraits. Yes, the weather in Juneau (snow mixing with rain at the moment) can leave a lot to be desired, but I wouldn’t trade it for any other spot on the planet.
Across the Mendenhall Lake the path through the snow leads over some icebergs and deep into a crevasse between the towering walls of the glacier’s face. I would never have been the first to venture back there, since I’ve had my fill of falling through the ice at that location, but with a clear sign of relative safety, I was happy to explore. The light on this evening was unlike any I remember seeing before because of the warm light being reflected off the mountains opposite the sun and into the shadows where it contrasted with the blue light from the clear sky. This photo from the very end of the trip exagerates that light to make the glacier seem like a castle in a wonderland of snow.
A stand of trees has been calling out to me for months and maybe even years to a lesser extent. They are spread along a beach on the opposite side of a small alcove from a highway I travel down frequently. The bare branches of the trees stand in contrast through much of the year (winter seems to last a long time) to the spruce and hemlock behind them, and without protection from their coniferous brethren, they have developed some really interesting forms. Facing predominantly north blocks the winter daylight almost completely, and though I had begun to consider whether soft light might be the best light for this subject, I never stopped to make any photographs until I noticed the upper branches of the trees catching some of the sun’s final rays in mid February. It seemed the perfect situation for photographing the trees had snuck up on me, but I was unprepared. The light introduced a very rich and contrasting color to the scene in a very delicate way; snow clinging to the lower boughs helped to accentuate their form; and I mistakenly used a miserably high ISO through all my exposures that evening. Though noise was handled better than I anticipated, the mistake was devastating. I focused on appreciating the experience of being there, but knowing how unlikely it would be for me to find time in my schedule when the necessary conditions were once again present was still a cause for frustration.
Several sunny days ended with clouds piled up on the horizon. The snow melted off the trees, and my hopes for a second chance this winter were melting as well. Then yesterday, after weeks had gone by, my stage was once again set, and I had an opening to pursue some redemption. I set up early, framed, recorded, reframed, and recorded over and over while the sun went in and out behind light clouds all the way down to the mountains. By the time I was done, it took a couple hours for my toes to heat back up to body temperature, but it was so worth it. The light was different (less of a fleeting feeling) than during the first encounter, but I actually think it translated to a photograph better. I won’t rule out looking for something in the middle as the years go by, but these photos already bring me a great deal of satisfaction. I’m very grateful.