Wednesday, March 3, 2010
During the day we spent in Franz Josef, I elected (like most of the rest of the group) to do the full-day hike up the glacier. I had no regrets at the end of the day (only sore thighs, proving that I'm thoroughly unfit from many months of vegetating in front of a computer). After spidering myself up and down various frozen slopes with a rope and spiked boots, watching our guide hack out paths through crevices partially filled with frigid water, and sliding (literally, sideways) through very narrow gaps in the ice, I felt I'd had a fairly diverse experience.
According to our guides and to its informative Wiki page, Franz Josef is a glacier cutting down the west side of the Southern Alps, nestling in the valley it carved between rainforested slopes. Franz Josef is what our guide called a "warm glacier". This was evidenced not only by rainforest, but also by the fact that we needed no coats or jerseys (just sunglasses--and no jeans allowed), and by the bizarre contrast created at lunch-time by potential sunburn on the one hand, and on the other, a numb rear-end from sitting on the ice.
I chose this picture with great difficulty, because while there were many amazing shots from that day, I wanted something that would specifically capture the dramatic contrasts that often dominate in areas where glaciers have been at work. It's hard to show why these places seem so amazing, when you can't demonstrate what things looked like from your own perspective "in the scene" (I had the same troubles with photographing Milford Sound, a few days later).
The reason I chose this shot was that the scale is deceptive until you seen the two climbers in the lower right-hand side of the frame. I think when you notice them, the whole image takes on a new perspective, as if the ants you thought you saw climbing on a pile of wrinkled dirt suddenly turned out to be tractors crawling over mountains on the surface of Mars.