Out of the mountains behind the Swiftcurrent Lodge in Glacier National Park is a flows a clear, cool stream, rushing down the slopes to the shallow valley below. Fed by the melting snow from high on the peaks, the water cascades down through open areas and dark forests, picking up volume from small rivulets along the way.
As the water reaches the flatter valley floor it spreads across a bed of rocks that have been deposited in its bed by years of erosion and raging floods.
The rocks show the results of the water’s relentless work, shaping and sculpting each one by the continuous flow into smooth, rounded surfaces. Variegated in color like a well designed quilt, the creek bed reveals some of the history of geologic time that has passed to create rocks of multiple hues.
At the end of the stream’s brief life it joins other waters, siblings born of other peaks and valleys, flowing not over rocky beds but through still, open areas where lakes are formed and sparkle under the sun. Wind here, not gravity, pushes the waters against the shore, continuing the gentle erosion that turns mountains into sand.
Oblivious of the deep time going on around them, wildlife moves through the glades and shoreline, quietly a part of the forest as much as the water and rocks.
Walk in the forest, little bit of sun sneaking through the clouds. Following deer trails through the woods.
Many people here are ready for spring, not because of the lingering snow as much as the single digit temperatures that just won’t go away. I can see their point but isn’t it just wonderful the stark difference winter has to the rest of the year? Don’t we appreciate the other three quarters because of the way this one fourth affects us?
Granted, much of my enjoyment comes from performance fabrics, appropriate footwear and layers of warm clothing. I test myself against the rigors of the season intentionally, fortunate that I don’t have to be tested by an inability to be prepared. There are unfortunate people who dread winter, unable to afford heating or enough food or even shelter. I can’t imagine living just a bit removed from our ancestral caves, surrounded by a modern society finding winter a temporary inconvenience. My perception of winter would be radically different if from a steam grate or corner of a bus station or in the back seat of a car that served as living quarters.
Being able to get out with my camera gear and compose images while inside of my high tech cocoon is not something I think lightly about, regardless of how I seem to talk about the season. It’s hard on people and animals, the brutal relentlessness of evolution, biology and physics. Keep that in mind when you have the opportunity to help someone or something less able to manage winter.
This winter has delivered a significant amount of snow to our part of Wisconsin, enough so the long time residents are starting to comment about it. Our white Christmas has become a white winter. Since I always think of the season in terms of snow this is great for me.
But what do you do with these piles of snow?
Obviously, hold a snow sculpting contest. Turn all that snow into works of art for people to ooh and aah about. And that’s exactly what happened this weekend on the water’s edge (well, the ice’s edge) at Lake Geneva. Apparently it’s not the first time a bunch of crazy people have gotten together to celebrate the frozen stuff, either. Read about it here.
And we’re not talking about really fancy “stack some big snowballs to make a snowman” sculpting. These teams really get into the design and details of some pretty elaborate creations. These would do justice to any other, more permanent medium but these people chose the more temporally (and temperature) challenged substance that’s lying around this time of year.
Local people bored with winter? Oh, no. Teams this year from Alaska, Colorado, Vermont, Nebraska, Michigan and other states worked their way from regional and state competitions to come to Wisconsin and compete for the national title. And just to make them feel welcome, there were three hard-working Wisconsin teams right there with them.
You may be thinking how much work can this be, piling up a little snow and carving out some castles and such? Well, start with a silo of snow nine feet tall. Now remove all the snow you don’t need to make your creation. And details count.
Here are some of my favorites. Enjoy.
Been playing around with tabletop compositions (much warmer inside than out in Wisconsin these days). It’s fun to work on different distances to see what close vs far does for the subject. I wonder if there isn’t a sweet spot for any subject, be it tiny objects, beautiful models or grand landscapes, and one objective for the photographer is to tap into that as part of the creative process.
I guess the distance is a function of the story you want the subject to be telling. Close gives an intimate sense of being a part of the scene, a look into a world that resides right under our noses but is usually passed over in lieu of the more macro world. Backing up some to see that larger scene gives a sense of place, a context for the subject to reside in and on. Pulling back more to see the whole object reveals what it is and some of what its function may be at the time.
Part of this study was to simply use a different background. I usually place objects on a black cloth but have been wanting to work on shadows. Hard to reverse out shadows (wouldn’t that be cool, though; white shadows on a black background) so I got a white cloth instead. Now I can use my light modifiers in a greater way, to control light on the subject and shadow.
Some say Art Deco is too much, overwhelming to the senses. Some say it’s a throwback to earlier architectural fads, a melding together of many genres in an attempt to be modern for its time. Some say it was before its time, a vision of the possibility of lines and curves creating depth on a surface.
And some say it was perfect for it’s time. When the country was shouldering its way onto the world stage, becoming the industrial powerhouse it would peak as in the middle of the 20th century. The designs, structure and flowing solidity of the style glamorized both the excess and excitement of its time.
I love photographing Art Deco. So much detail, so much dimensionality, so much strength in the stories told by murals, pediments, statues and carvings. Light and dark, shadow and surface, even the neon tubes fit with the crafted design. It rewards the photographer who waits for the light, patiently watching the play of slanted light across the depth of construction, looking for just the moment when the balance jumps out for the viewer.
Look around. Art Deco remains all around us, adding a little pizazz to the buildings and structures around us.
Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana
…sometimes you feel like mountains.
As a kid growing up in the Southeast it seemed this spot in far away Montana was on another planet, a location that existing but one I’d never get around to seeing myself. Fortunately life took the right turns to put me here several times to enjoy the sights and sounds of the high country.
Where have you visited that you never thought you’d see?