Before you start getting the impression that I am some kind of wild adventure woman, I need to confess that I am not! Well, that's not completely true. I do love adventure and I am willing to go to adventurous and unusual places, especially if it is different than where most people (especially other photographers) are going. Sometimes I get roped into doing things I wouldn't have normally done on my own. Walking out into the middle of a frozen lake with cracks everywhere at the break of dawn in the coldest of winters is definitely one of those things. Like most other adventures that I have been on, I am so very glad I did!
Let me set the stage for you. It is February in the Canadian Rockies. It is before dawn. That means it is dark out and it is extremely cold, snowy, and very windy. So we head over to Abraham Lake, in hopes of photographing the elusive ice bubbles. Abraham Lake is located in the Kootenay Plain, a less traveled and unpopulated area of the Canadian Rockies. There are no ski slopes or touristy shops and definitely no crowds here in the Plains. The Plains do not receive as much precipitation as the rest of the Canadian Rockies, so the ice that forms on the lake is polished and clear because of the powerful winds.
If all the conditions are just right, you might be fortunate enough to see the amazing and fantastic ice bubbles that form on Abraham Lake. The formation of these bubbles is due to the methane gas rising from the bottom of the lake and then attaching to the underside of iced lake. As the ice on the lake thickens, each subsequent bubble gets trapped into stacks like a suspended group of jelly fish in the ocean.
Dressed for a blizzard and camera gear and tripod in tow, we strapped on our crampons, so we can walk onto the lake without making fools of ourselves. I even had to put spikes on the ends of my tripod legs so the wind wouldn't send my equipment dancing across the frozen lake. It is very freaky walking on frozen ice, especially this particular ice. There are frozen cracks everywhere you step. Getting to the bubbles can be very dangerous and it is extremely important to go out on the lake with someone that knows what they are doing. The first several minutes my heart was beating wildly as I feared falling through the ice and freezing to death instantly. As I got further out onto the lake, I looked down and I was completely amazed by the sight before me; huge ice bubbles clumped together in groups, looking more like unusual jelly fish trapped under the surface than frozen bubbles!
With my nose dripping everywhere due to the cold air, frozen fingers despite the hand warmers inside my insulated gloves, I got low to the ground with my tripod and camera, so as not to be blown over, and set everything up as quickly as possible. Then we waited for the first light of the morning sun to come over the mountain.
Photographing the ice bubbles was a profoundly unique and moving experience. The resulting image is a compilation of 5 photos, in order to capture the full range of color and light that my eyes took in. What a glorious sight to behold! Yes, it was all worth it.