Fire to Snow

How do you feel about queues? About waiting in line? About that inner feeling of getting ahead, but at the same time being respectful and courteous as society has taught us to be?

Finally on the flight that will take my wife and I to Paris, for a whole 13 hours. I haven’t been to Paris in some 15 years, and my wife probably the same amount. The country of Bresson.This time I only took my Fujifilm X100F with me. I just want to wander the streets with one camera, one lens, one focal length, a couple of batteries, and a lot of excitement.

Before getting in the queue to board the plane we hit the Sky Lounge at the Detroit airport. Got in, had two beers and two hotdogs. Ketchup and mustard on both, no relish. Hot dogs I thought? For a ‘premium service’ lounge? Yes, showers were available, and so was the salad bar with some healthy roasted chicken and some cranberries. I didn’t actually see the cranberries, but you know, any healthy salad bar must have cranberries.

Travelers waiting for their boarding annoucement. Waiting in order to get in that queue.

“No, you go ahead, please”. Then suspiciously looking over your left shoulder to see if there are any suspects lurking in. And then the right. No one in sight. We are safe. Because in the end, we aren’t all just going to get on the plane, face forward, and get hurled at 800 km per hour across the ocean. Detroit to Paris, December 22nd, 2017.

And to think that just a month prior we were waking up at 5am to catch that first sun hit the Grand Canyon. Or at the Valley of Fire. Or the Monument Valley. And a year before that in Munising, in the Nothern Peninsula in Michigan.

Monument valley to Munising Road Map
Road Map from Monument Valley to Munising

Almost 1800 miles, or 26 hours driving from Fire to Snow.

Landscape photography it was in the Southwest, landscape and some travel photography it was in Munising.

First and foremost, the exposure compensation, bumping it up one, and at times even two full stops, to ensure the white snow remained pure.

Munising Falls, Feb 2016

Like in this snapshot (I would hate to call it a photograph) of the Munising Falls, completely frozen. A lack of a recognizable scale indicator, like a human, doesn’t give the viewer a complete understanding of the size. But hey, the snow looks as white as it was on that overcast day.

The second thing to think about is the environment. Sand in West, snow in the North. All factors that can severely damage the oh so precious sensor. There really isn’t much we can do as photographers, just hope that our gear doesn’t fall down a cliff, into the sand or snow.

That’s what I thought was going to happen when we took off. Three sleds, all individually hooked up to trees with latches that had to be released when we were ready. The dogs were fiercely tugging. Six pairs of Husky looking dogs for each sled. Strong, determined, relentless. And they had a specific order as well. The two leaders at the front knew very well their positions in the queue. Like those folks that are in first class, and ready to be the first to board the plane.

Leaders of the pack. Sled dogs before leaving for the ride, Feb 2016

I tug on the latch and it releases. I hang on for my life, and that of my camera, as I’m doing a Superman pose holding onto the sled’s back bar. The Nikon D5500 came with me, and so did the kit lens during this adventure. And although at that time I didn’t have any other camera or lens to choose from, I would probably use that approach in the future and recommend it to any one else who is willing to take a little risk, but then reap the rewards.

Driver’s view of dog sledding, Feb 2016

Like capturing the sun still high enough to somewhat warm us as well as to cast those long shadows on the bare trees.

And after that initial tug from the dogs, and near-death experience for my camera, I let it face its fears a little further. I tested it. It tested me.


Driver’s view of dog sledding, Feb 2016

Getting a different angle, a more dog’s view angle.

We are just cruising in the wilderness, just outside of Munising, on these dog sleds. Dogs crapping while running ahead. Their legs like the engines that are pushing the other passengers and I to our destination.

And Sergei Rachmaninov, 24 Preludes, kindly offered by Delta’s onboard entertainment, plays in my earbuds. Snacks on their way. I need water. The two beers have made me thirstier than expected.

The dogs needed water. Their tongues hanging out of their mouths after that one hour run. Only after they had rested a bit I got in a little closer. And a little closer. And a couple of extra steps. I wasn’t scared, but I wasn’t close enough.

They looked at me curiously. I looked at them curiously. The camera looked at them curiously. Zoomed on the eye and made this photograph.

Leaders of the pack resting during the mid-journey break, Feb 2016

The rest period was over. Time to head back. The dogs needed to call it a night. We needed to do the same. We had been awake since the early morning, walking on the frozen lake out of our rented AirBnB and discovering this new land. Probably more appropriate to call it ‘temporary land’.

South Bay, in front of Grand Island, in the frozen Superior Lake, Feb 2016

All of it so far from the West; snow and the rest. People in a queue. Dogs in a queue. But with a little exposure compensation, a kit lens, and some audacity mixed with curiosity you get to discover through photography.

So far from the West, yet nature at its best.

Sunset in Munising, Feb 2016

Now I just have to read what lake that was. Oh right, it was Lake Superior.

Until Next Time,

A Riverter’s Name



Your host and co-host in a unique self portrait, Munising, Feb 2016