The morning broke for the second day of my trip. Well, it didn’t, really. The midnight sun makes the transition between day and night quite arbitrary. As I was preparing my breakfast I was getting very excited over the idea of just bringing a few light items along with me other than my camera gear. I left the tent and most of my belongings and started scouting for interesting and hopefully photogenic areas to shoot at.
I found my way to a big crack that was going right through the side of the mountain. Through it, there was a stream that would turn into several smaller streams and ice-covered areas as it dwindled its way through the landscape. I hiked my way upwards to start experimenting with my newly bought ND-filter, with the intention of shooting some long exposures.
The water was splashing on me as I tried getting closer to the water fall. On top of that there was snow mixed with hail coming down at me from the sky. Knowing I already had my tent set up as well as a strong confidence in my own abilities, this would only excite me further and I couldn’t help but giggle from the situation as I enjoyed it even more thoroughly than I might have had if the sun were to shine.
The sturdiness of the d800 had me trust on it wholeheartedly and I never bothered wiping the water off the camera itself in fear of it getting through and possible damaging the camera. It was all a matter of getting sharp images and keeping the lens clean and filter clean, not the body. That could take care of itself.
Every now and then there would be a strange purple colour cast to the images. My guess is that it was either from drops of splashed water on the lens that together with the extremness of an essentially completely black filter and the long exposures that would create this rather unpleasant effect, or if it could be from not attaching the filter quite properly and letting stray light come in (possibly in combination with water drops).
Another thing to remember is that it is after all a very cheap filter. The highly renowned B+W filters for the filter size of 77 mm would set me back about 110 euros, compared to the 40 euros that this “Haida” had me cough up. Judging by the reviews I had read on its sharpness as well as my own personal experiences from it, it would seem like a fair enough deal for such a very specific purpose item. The most important aspect in terms of sharpness here would rather be that of using a stable tripod setup.
Anyways, I would throw away the worst cases and some of the lighter ones would work fine in black & white conversions with some burning and dodging as well as some other trickery in postprocessing.
Looking back at the pictures, it becomes clear to me that I was a bit too engulfed in the rather tedious process of shooting with a tripod, focusing and refocusing, wiping off water from the lens and filter, instead of composing the images. That’s the wall you have to breach before you can do it with your eyes closed. Seeing as I hadn’t really done this before, I could obviously not expect it to be an all that elegant and easy task as something I was used to.
Composition really is that thing that keeps coming back to you and the one thing that it all really boils down to. The technicalities of photography are something I am more and more confident about, and the details that do still bug me really are only such things that other photographers care about, rather than the everyday viewer of my images.
Moving on from my water fall that I had been hovering around for a good while, I had a look around me and decided that I wanted to see what another major stream that ran through the valley would be like to photograph. After some time scouting I could see an opening from the massive ice and snow cover from which massive amounts of icy water was pushing through. By the help of some acrobatic trickery I managed to get myself across the stream, followed it for a while and then crossed it back again. I was now at the entrance of an impressive ice cave.
It was time to bring out the camera again.
The more I would try to simplify the composition, the more raw the images would come out. They look almost otherworldly in its thick contrast with deep shadows, dreamy waters and eerie ice ceiling. It’s in many ways a fitting representation of what I found under the ice cover and what my own eyes would interpret from the scene.
Here is actually a shot taken with out the nd filter attached to the lens. Considering how dark it was inside this ice cave I would still be able to get longer exposures. This would yield a pretty different result that is less dream-like and with more character to the water. In a way it looks even more ferocious, I would think.
By now, I felt I had had just about enough of this type of photography for the day. I lost grip of time in the excitement of the work and ended up eating a very late lunch before moving my tent up further into the valley, where I wanted to start the third day’s adventure. There seemed to be a shift in weather coming. The clouds were slowly clearing and the temperature started to drop temporarily as I zipped up my sleeping bag for another nights sleep out in the wild.