Graveyard of a Glacier

A busy few weeks has meant a slowdown in images appearing on this blog. I’m still working my way through last summer’s collection of new images from the Alps, among other things.

There have been two previous posts about the glaciers I photographed above Saas Fee – Terminal Decline, and The Forms of Ice. Click the links to read the posts and see the images.

The is the first post of the Fee Glacier in monochrome, and I remain in two minds about the conversion to B&W. On the positive side it has mood, atmosphere and bite. The contrast, intrinsic to monochrome, accentuates the white ice that intrudes into the grey rocky landscape. Also, in the context of climate change, with glacial retreat very evident, and the distinct possibility that some glaciers will  cease to exist in another century, monochrome feels appropriate. And yet…

When you look at a glacier – and this is why those two previous posts are relevant – you realize that glaciers are not pure white, except in the depths of winter after new snow. At all other times there are subtle colours that are very evident in the walls of crevasses and particularly in a glacier’s terminal zone as it starts to disintegrate and fall apart.

Each fall of snow is compressed and forms a thin band within the glacial ice like the annular rings of a tree. It’s colour is influenced by many factors including the regular presence of sand particles carried by the wind from north African deserts and deposited during snow fall.

It is those colours that give glaciers their character and makes us appreciate that within the chaos, intrinsic danger, and savage lines of a glacier there is true beauty. Glaciers are Leviathans creeping down hill millimetre by millimetre. By comparison snails look like they are  turbocharged. Glaciers appear alive, but they are a dying breed.

In celebrating their existence, we need to glory in their colour, as well as be reminded of the savage beauty which, occasionally, is manifest best in monochrome.

Their skin my be grey in their death throes, covered in grit, resembling elephant hide; but when the forces of nature slice break them apart, they show their true colour as in this second image, below, of the Gorner Glacier above Zermatt, also shot last Summer.




About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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14 Responses to Graveyard of a Glacier

  1. I love the contrast. The question is how do you make the blue stand out?

  2. Jane Lurie says:

    The black and white is a fitting eulogy for these disappearing wonders. Of course, the amazing blue ice is also wonderful to see. Great post.

  3. shoreacres says:

    My only experience with glaciers has been in Alaska, but the colors there were very much like what you show here. Glacier ice can be one of the purest, most beautiful blues I know, and when the crust breaks open to reveal its wonders, it’s breathtaking. I can appreciate the black and white in a certain way, but it doesn’t touch my heart the way the ones with color do.

    • LensScaper says:

      I am with you on the ‘blues’ – they are magical colours sometimes. I’ve lost count of the number of glaciers I’ve crossed, each one has its own character, in part derived from the rock strata deep beneath the surface. I would love to visit Alaska one day.

  4. paula graham says:

    Indeed…a photo has to be made….the camera gives you the chance to do so…and you can/do most beautifully.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much Paula. It was Ansel Adams who originally said that ‘a photograph is made not taken’, along with a host of other original observations about photography.

  5. ShimonZ says:

    An excellent view of glaciers; both in photos and in explanation. But looking at what we know from history, I doubt that this will be the end of them. They will probably return in another ice age, don’t you think?

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Shimon. In the short term glaciers are retreating fast, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But in the long term – who knows. An apocalyptic event event could produce major climatic cooling, but it will be long after we are gone.

  6. Sue says:

    Striking images, Andy

  7. Glaciers are amazing geographical wonders, but, as you point out, slowly vanishing as the globe gets warmer. The both subtle and sometime very stark blues inside a glacier makes for some wonderful images, as you have shown on many an occasion. But I also really like the black and white rendering of the first photo in this post. It’s a beautiful image.

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