Monday, March 17, 2014

More Bad Light

A quick trip North for a winter magazine assignment went wonderfully. New snow, bright yet diffused sunlight. Everything went off like clockwork.

Since I was already North, I decided to stay on a few extra days to explore the ice piling up along the shores of Lake Superior. This year the lake was more than 90% covered in ice. Normal twenty years ago, this is a rare winter event these days. Photographers follow such unusual natural events. The winds pile layers and layers of ice up to the shore. It can be a splendid visual experience for shooters.

Well, not this time.

Weather was stormy, cloudy and dark. The recent snow had covered the ice with a milky coating eliminating the desired gin clear ice. What does one do?

Driving for miles, I finally located a patch of ice that retained some of that gorgeous glacial blue coloration that attracts artists. But, the skies were dank and the ice almost featureless in this light. There was however a silver lining. I could photograph the blue ice without concern for the sky blowing it out. For all its bland appearance, this flat light was actually decent to work with.

Never give up. With a little luck, things might work out. Having a dramatic scene in such two-dimensional light was indeed a gift.

Lake Superior ice & clouds near Croftville, Minnesota


 The moon was edging slightly past half-moon phase. Not enough light I felt to warrant a night on the ice looking for new views of the ice shards piling up. But, some whispy clouds made things compelling enough to give it shot. Maybe with long exposures, the moving clouds will add some interest to a stark and simple scene. 

Inside an hour of darkness, a fabulous moon dog formed. It was huge, one of the biggest I've seen. The diffused light created an atmosphere that felt over worldly. Really strange light out over the ice fields. To add to the bizarre light and add drama to the scene, it was necessary to get the camera angle low giving the ice a larger appearance and see the moon dog. Yes, I did shoot a full moon dog. But, those have been done a million times. I was looking for something different. A look that mimicked the bizarre light cast over the frozen lake that night.

I spied a collection of ice shards, spread to tripod down to its lowest angle, framed the moon dog so it gave the impression or rising. I liked the results. I walked away with a new image, one that was different than any other winter moon dog photograph I've made prior. The effort to venture out that evening was totally worth it.
Moon Dog over Lake Superior ice shards.

Sometimes you just have to take off that editorial cap and put on the creative cap. It allows you a sense of adventure and risk. Try something within the realm of photographic possibilities and see what the imagination can kick out.

Silver Bay, Minnesota

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