Risk & Reward


I woke early one winter morning knowing that it had been snowing pretty good when I had gone to bed the night before. A glance out the window of the kitchen I could tell that the sky had cleared and the temperature had dropped a glance at the thermometer confirmed it was five degrees below zero and still as could be. I had All of the information I need to know I was going to the Headwaters as soon as I could get my self dressed and out the door I would be having breakfast on the way.

Less than an hour later I was standing at the Headwaters trying to decide where I was going to make that mornings images. We had been going through a cold snap (-20 and colder) for a while before it warmed up enough to snow the night before. There was quite a bit of Ice near the Headwaters I thought this could be the perfect time to get out on the lake and make photographs looking across the Headwaters and down the river.

The first thing I needed to do was test the ice so with the camera equipment on shore I took my tripod and extended the legs so as I walked out on the lake I could pound the ice in front of me. I knew that I needed probably five inches underfoot to be safe, and with water flowing out of the lake, there was a slight current which can cause the thickness to be very inconsistent. 

I chose a location that I thought would be safe enough to hold me and my equipment resulting in the composition you see in the above photo. You could see significant variations in the lake ice and the natural contrast between the water, fresh snow, and the trees around the Headwaters. I made several exposures on black and white as well as color transparency film, as was my practice when I was using a 4X5 view camera.

I left the Headwaters feeling like I had made a pretty good image that day. It was not until I made the first test print in the darkroom that I knew just how good of a picture I had made. It's still a favorite image twenty-five years later.

A technical note, about using a large format camera: 

Using a large format camera, I was able to make some adjustments to the camera that would extend the depth of field. With the final composition, I employed the Scheimpflug principle. First, you choose your focus about midway through the scene with the aperture wide open then you slowly tilt the bottom of the lens board toward the back of the camera while watching for the focus to shift, you refocus and adjust until you see the focus area expand. And then you lock the lens board down and set your aperture for the exposure. A word of caution this technique takes a lot of practice to get it right. Once you get the execution down it becomes second nature, but it will take time to get it right.