Abraham Lake is one of my favorite places to photograph. Whenever I go there, I almost always come back with an image that I like. My favorite time of year to photograph this lake is winter when the ice forms.
Abraham Lake is a man-made lake on the North Saskatchewan River of Western Alberta in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. The lake is about 20 miles long and gets its beautiful greenish blue color from rock flour, just like the other lakes in the area. The lake retains this color when frozen and can take on many different hues depending on the light and time of day. This color, along with the many fascinating shapes and textures and surrounding mountain ranges, make this lake a photographer’s paradise.
These ice bubbles form from gases escaping from the lake floor. They bubble up and get trapped underneath various layers of ice. One theory as to why they form in columns like this relates to the heat of the gases. This heat creates a “funnel” or “column”, causing other bubbles to form directly underneath.
Throughout the winter, the lake undergoes multiple periods of thawing and re-freezing. Stress cracks are the most common cracks on ice, and are usually what you hear when you are out on a frozen lake. When I am out shooting on Abraham Lake, I am constantly hearing cracking in the ice. This can be a bit scary, but the parts I am standing on are frozen very deep, if not all the way to the lake’s floor. This cracking is associated with thermal stress, and is usually a result of the top layer of ice cooling or warming more quickly than the underneath layers. If you hear cracking as a result of you walking on ice, and are unsure of how deep the frozen ice is, beware! Time to get off the ice.
Some of my favorite abstracts of this lake are a combination of various different elements: ice bubbles, ice cracks, and parts of the surface that have collected snow from the strong winds.
Temperatures during winter can be extremely cold. On many occasions, the temperature outside in the morning while shooting during sunrise has been below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius and colder!). Also, wind can be very strong with hurricane force gusts possible. On one occasion, I was out shooting on the ice in moderate wind. I heard a rumbling heading towards me and pretty much out of nowhere a huge gust came across the lake and literally blew me on my back. My camera crashed against the ice, along with my head. I carefully made my way back to my car, crouching as I went, and ducking behind large boulders as to not get blown over again. When I got back to my car my head was bleeding and I was feeling a bit dizzy. I ended up recovering just fine, but it was an eye opening experience to say the least.
Chip Phillips began his relationship with photography in 2006 when his father gave him his old Pentax Spotmatic film SLR camera. Chip was immediately hooked and soon made the transition to digital. Given his lifelong love of the outdoors, he naturally made the progression to focusing on landscape photography. A professionally trained classical musician, Chip also performs as Principal Clarinet with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, and is Adjunct Professor of Clarinet at Gonzaga University. Chip resides in Spokane Washington with his wife and son.