Blue Glacial Ice

Blue Glacial Ice

20×24″ and 30×40″ are sold out
40×50″ (Museum Size) prints are $25,000

This photograph was taken on my trip to Alaska. I drove up to Prince Rupurt and took the ferry to Juneau, where I hired a private charter plane which flew me to Gustavus. I spent the night in Gustavus before putting into Glacier Bay in a small 17’ aluminum skiff, with a guide to take me up into the bay to photograph.

Glacier Bay is extremely large and deep, a fact truly appreciated when experienced in a small boat. We went in this small skiff 75 miles north into the bay, loaded down with three people, our camping gear, the photographic equipment, a spare outboard motor and enough gasoline for the round trip and a couple of days of travel. The bay is several miles wide and over a thousand feet deep.

We had the whole place to ourselves most of the time—we were there in the first few days of June, before most of the tourists and campers arrive. We camped out near the end of Reid Glacier and made daily forays north to Lamplugh Glacier and once east to the Columbia Ice field and assorted glaciers.

This particular photograph was taken about 4:30 am, before the others had awakened. For a couple of days I had been examining the center of the front edge of Reid Glacier, where the water ran out from underneath. During low tide, the front of the glacier was more exposed and the nearby sandbar made an approach possible. I carried the equipment about 1/2 mile and carefully set up the camera.

The glacier towered over me, over 100 feet tall, and I was quite edgy about being so close—without warning, massive chunks of ice can fall from the front of these glaciers. This section of ice is about 10 feet across and is ice in the very heart of the glacier, at the bottom of the front edge. It is blue because the ice is extremely clear and dense, from being squeezed with massive pressure for hundreds of years.

After printing the image in 1993, I felt that there was still room for improvement, so in February of 1994 I spent a couple of weeks working on developing some new techniques.

I ended up making a highlight mask which I then bumped up in contrast and selectively etched away some of the extraneous highlights. Using this mask, I made a contrast mask. This gave me the appropriate midtone to highlight reproduction but the deep values were still lacking a bit of strength. So I made a sharp negative with a gamma of 1.0 and used this to make a sharp positive, with density only in the lower values. I then had to “stretch” the image to properly fit the way the enlarging lens would see the sandwich of masks. The final result had much better tone reproduction in all areas of the image. As usual, considerable dodging and burning is required.

I find the smooth blue sculptural shapes and forms in this image to appear to be almost not of this world, a reminder that there is always wonder and excitement to be found just around the corner!

Photographing in Glacier Bay in 1993
Photographing in Glacier Bay in 1993

Format: Large (horizontal)
Location: Alaska
Reference key: bgi