When I was twenty-six, I signed up for a course on glacier travel and crevasse rescue. I was an aspiring alpinist and, like most beginners, was terrified by the idea of falling into a hidden crevasse. As we travelled up the flanks of California's Mount Shasta, I was both frightened and excited. When finally we reached the Hotlum Glacier and began exploring, my fear vanished quickly, replaced by complete amazement. The sounds, shapes and color of the glacier were mesmerizing. My dreams of mountain summits faded but my obsession with glaciers grew and I am amazed still and in awe of them, just like I was all those years ago on Mount Shasta.
Glaciers are a fascinating subject to photograph. They are in constant transformation; moving, melting, sinking and breaking, creating an endless variation of compositions and designs. My favorite place to photograph is on the surface of a glacier.
Photographing the surface of a glacier is a powerful experience. However, before we discuss glacier photography, we should discuss glacier travel. Travelling on a glacier is like being transported to another planet and it is very much worth the limited risk, which is no more than, say, hiking off trail or mountain biking.
The most important safety rule is simple: never travel on a snow covered glacier. Snow covers crevasses, moulins and other holes and cracks in the glacier's surface, hiding them from the glacier explorer. Travelling on a snow covered glacier is the realm of experienced mountaineers who have had training and are part of a roped team.
Once the glacier is free of snow, all the dangers are revealed and it is easy to avoid them. The surface of a snow-free glacier can range from ...