Breaking Point – Glacial ice calving, Alaska.
I’ve been on a few trips to photograph glaciers now, and if there is one thing I’ve learned when attempting to photograph the unpredictable moment of glacial calving, it’s that to do so you’ll need all of your senses in tune.
Here are a few tips to capture a moment like this:
High Speed Drive. To capture a photograph like mine above, first and foremost, make sure your camera is set to high-speed drive. When the magic starts to happen, you want to be able to take multiple shots subsequently to ensure that you capture the perfect moment.
Choose as lens and stick to it. This photograph was shot with a Canon 100-400 at roughly 300mm. Whatever you do, don’t change your mind about the lens you’ve chosen, even when you find yourself waiting around for something to happen wondering if the shot would look better with the wide-angle in your bag. Often times, you’ll start to swap lenses and right when you’re mid-change a huge piece of ice will let loose from the glacier and you’ve missed the moment you’ve been waiting for! Glacial calving can happen three or more times in a row, or not at all for days on end, so it is important to take advantage of every minute you have in front of the glacier.
Watch with your eyes. Did a few small chunks of ice just splash into the water? Often, a small calving event will take place before a large one– the weight transfer of smaller pieces of ice falling away from the ice wall sometimes makes a larger piece let-go.
Listen with your ears. The sudden crack or rumble of “thunder” means you best be ready to take your shot. Believe me when I say you won’t miss the sound of a calving event happening.
Pay attention to wildlife. Are there birds on the seaside cliffs? Did they suddenly take flight and dart towards the water? When a large piece of ice falls into the water it can stir up plankton and other sea creatures that sea birds like to eat. It is almost as if they have glacial calving ESP and can often give you a moments notice before a calving event takes place.
Don’t go looking through your shots too soon. In fact, don’t even put the camera down after an event takes place (unless of course you’re going to follow my last bit of advice below). Often when one calving event takes place, another is not long behind.
Remember to see with your eyes. If you’re photographing a glacier you’re most definitely in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. Sometimes it pays to hold a memory of a such a place that you actually saw with your naked eyes, rather than through the viewfinder of a camera.