Photographing glaciers in black and white

Discussion in 'Geographic Location' started by Steve Goldstein, Nov 30, 2018.

  1. Steve Goldstein

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    Color images of glaciers show that they actually contain a lot of blue. So for black-and-white I imagine I’d want at least a yellow filter to get decent contrast in the image. Can anyone share their experiences with this? Next year’s trip* will very likely be a once-in-a-lifetime thing so I’d like to improve my odds of getting some keeper images. There aren’t glaciers anywhere near where I live so I’ve no chance to do my own testing.

    *Svalbard Islands
     
  2. jim10219

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    I've never shot glaciers before, but here's what I'm thinking anyway. I'd suggest using a long lens. I imagine they're a bit like mountains in that the impulse is to use a wide angle to capture their grandeur, but that usually results in pictures of small looking mountains. It also helps to get things in the pictures that act as scale reference points, like people, plants, or animals, so you can get a sense of the scale. You can still use a normal and wide angle lens for certain things, but will probably find longer lenses more useful.

    And of course since everything will be white(ish), you'll need to take that into consideration while metering. Otherwise you run the risk of underexposing everything if you're not using an incident meter.

    And with the cold, it might be a good idea to test your camera in some cold weather first. The cold can slow down lubricants and cause shutters to jam or shutter speeds to slow. So it might be a good idea to find out how your camera reacts to those conditions first. I know some people who frequently photograph in cold environments will use special lubricants in their cameras to keep them running smoother in below freezing conditions. If you're using a digital camera or anything with batteries, it's a good idea to keep the batteries warm, which often means keeping them close to your body and not in the camera. I've been in cold weather conditions before where all of my electronics stopped working because I kept them in outside coat pockets instead of near my body where my body heat can keep them from freezing. But I don't know how cold it gets where you're going or how long you'll be exposed to the cold. So that may not even be an issue for you.
     
  3. mmerig

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    Glacial ice -- old and new -- and snow have light-absorption characteristics depending on wave length. Also, elevation above the sea also effects light quality hitting the ice (more UV and blue higher up).

    This article may be be helpful https://atmos.washington.edu/~sgw/PAPERS/2006_icemcx.pdf

    You can do some experimenting in nearby mountains this winter (e.g., White Mountains of New Hampshire), to get an idea of what various filters do. Much of the Svalbard is near sea level, but of course its latitude is quite high.

    Most of my glacier or snow pictures are in color, and most of the black and white ones are with a yellow (Wratten #8) filter on panchromatic film, or no filter with orthochromatic. So I don't have a much for you to work with, I guess.
    .
     
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    Steve Goldstein

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    Thanks for the tip about the long lens, I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps in this situtation the 210mm for Mamiya 7 might actually be useful. I've been considering picking one up. I have (and have used) the external battery thing for the camera, so that's covered.

    Thanks for the Applied Optics paper, it's interesting reading. It never occurred to me that "blue ice" looked blue not simply because it was reflecting blue sky but also because it was significantly less absorbtive in the blue as shown in the paper's Figure 1. Testing in the White Mountains is a great idea, I know some places where blue ice does occasionally form from my ice-climbing days.
     
  5. Andrew O'Neill

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    The strongest filter I used was a Wratten #8 light yellow filter. That darkened the blue ice enough for me. I always exposed a little higher on the scale and reduce development to control contrast. It really depends what effect you want.
     
  6. Sirius Glass

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    Use wide angle lenses and telephoto lenses. Also use an incident meter to get the light exposure correct. As far as contrast filters, blue filters will lighten the blue so as suggested yellow filters could help, but consider taking orange, red and polarizing filters and seeing what it looks like in the viewfinder. Especially since it will be a long walk back home to get them if you need them.
     
  7. Vaughn

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    The polar filter (pun intended) might have the greatest effect on glaciers -- too much perhaps, so I would not keep it on the lens. Don't want to lose all that sparkle!

    I have just used the 150mm on 4x5 for the little glacier work I have done. All depends on how close and personal you can get with the ice! This image was taken fairly close to the Glacier's face, and next to the river coming out of it. The ice cube in the lower left is about 1foot by 2 foot x1.5 foot in size. The size opening of the river is hard for me to remember, perhaps 6 to 10 feet tall with the river running very high after days of rain. TMax100, no filter, printed on Ilford Gallerie, Glossy Grade 3.
     

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  8. DREW WILEY

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    So now they've discovered Bigfoot prints in New Zealand too?
     
  9. Vaughn

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    One more image and story before I stop procrastenating and mix up some Potassium oxalte.

    After the above image, I climbed up and around along side the glacier. The glacier has been in major retreat for decades. The areas freshly exposed by the retreat tend to be unstable as the toe of the slope, which was the glacier, is relatively quickly removed. I set the camera up on such a slope, on a large enough rock to hold the tripod and me. I kept an ear open for the sound of falling racks as I focused over the glacier at a waterfall and made the image, then moved down towards the glacier's side. Several minutes later I heard some rocks and looked back - two good sized rocks swept right over the rock I had been on. Probably why the sign said not to go there. But glaciers tend to be dirty at the bottom end, and not a lot of blue, remembering those rainy gray New Zealand days 30 years ago while rain hits my windows here in California.

    PS -- buying shoes big enough anywhere is always a problem...
     

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  10. DREW WILEY

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    Well, it's been raining cats n' dogs here the past few days. So I've been either printing or drymounting a lot of mountain shots, including some taken well up steep ice pitches, on of them with the Sinar 4x5 precariously set up right between Thunderbolt Peak and North Palisade - not the kind of shot I'm likely to repeat at my age! Another from a tiny ledge on Goddard Divide overlooking the Enchanted Gorge. Another one was taken of El Cap edge-on, standing atop a huge ice cone directly below frozen Horsetail Falls one winter. I chopped off a tripod platform with the ice axe. .. and so forth. Makes me salivate for the mtns, and I'm already planning next year's trips. Got both the Wind River Range on my radar again, as well as Kings Can
    again the following month.
     
  11. Vaughn

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    The hell with winter -- Bigfoot is grabbing his 100 year old 5x7 and heading to Chile for a month! I leave in a week.
     
  12. DREW WILEY

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    Congratulations! I'm envious, and will be stuck on my drymounting marathon, though I'll probably take in a brief token Sierra snow trip.
     
  13. Vaughn

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    One of my boys has been going to school down there this semester. My other son will fly down from New York where he goes to school. The Bigfoot Tribe is on the move!

    Might see a glacier or two!
     
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