Weekend at Watts
Having had some creative photography planned over the weekend just gone, I have knowingly delayed this blog post (by nearly half a day, as it turns out) so that I could show you what we got up to over the weekend. This is largely because I have an even more interesting trip planned this week, so I didn’t want to create too much of a backlog on sharing what I’ve been up to.
My Saturday afternoon began with packing all of our gear into the back of the blue Hagglunds (we have a blue, a red and a yellow, so they’re named by colour). My gear usually consists of my survival pack, my pelican case with my camera gear, plus another small bag with a change of clothes, my food for the trip plus an entertainment device or two (typically an MP3 player and my Kindle). I’ve now wised up a little and I can fit my pelican case, tripod and all of my extra stuff (food, clothes and ugg boots included) into a duffel bag.
On the way up Watts hut, we stopped in at the Marine Plains apples. Well, it’s really two apples and a melon (an apple being an insulated fibreglass sphere guyed to the ground, with a melon being the same but with cylindrical extensions to provide more interior space). Aside from one of the group not having seen them before, we were also picking up a piece of equipment recently left behind by another group.
Shortly thereafter we made it to Watts. We dropped off our (non-survival pack) baggage, had a quick cup of tea and then headed out to Crooked Lake to check out the frozen fresh water. The sea ice on the bay and the fjords is quite reliable, but it’s not especially clear in most places, due both to the salt content and the constant disruption from the tide. Once the freshwater lakes are frozen, however, some of them are as smooth and clear as glass.
When we got to the lake, we cleared off a small area of snow and drilled a narrow hole into the ice using the same drill bits we use to check for depth. In this case, after drilling a metre in and not finding water, we simply shone a torch into the ice and realised we could see the bottom several metres below the surface. The lake is, currently, a single enormous block of ice.
Unfortunately for us the full moon was up all night, so we didn’t manage to get any of the really amazing long-exposure shots that we were inspired by from previous years. We did manage to have plenty of fun all the same.
Once we’d taken all of the photos we felt compelled to take (or, more accurately, we were getting cold and hungry) we headed back to Watts for dinner, an adult beverage and some compelling conversation.
On Sunday we headed up to Trajer Ridge melon (pronounced ‘TRAY-er). We were the first to travel the route this season, so we stopped to drill the ice frequently and also walked many of the sections before deciding they were safe to drive along. Seeing as the trip was strictly recreational (even though I used the opportunity to replace a broken radio at Trajer Ridge), we stopped to take photos whenever something took our fancy.
The varying quality and quantity of light, plus the strange phenomenon caused by fresh water freezing in various states of flow and calm, gave us a broad array of photos. When I have some more spare time I have a few panorama attempts that may stitch together into some impressive vistas.
We didn’t quite make it all the way to Trajer Ridge in the Hagglunds, so we walked the rest of the way with our packs (and me with a toolbag and radio). The others took the opportunity to boil some water and have tea or milo while I replaced the radio, and then well sat around being lazy as the heater was doing a sterling job of keeping the melon toasty. Eventually, however, we found our way back to Crooked Lake for a second look, and then back to Watts for dinner.
And here we are waiting for the bacon to cook. We can’t have eggs or chicken in the field as the risk of a virus infecting penguins, while remote, it simply too high to warrant a simple pleasure. Notwithstanding, bacon on toast with fried mushrooms was a veritable feast in the hut. It was also a great way to end our trip, as we shortly thereafter packed up, cleaned up and drove back to station.
All in all it was a great weekend in good company, and we all learned a thing or two about taking cool photos of ice. I’ve checked some astronomical data and a few of the more photography-inclined of us may plan another trip out to Crooked Lake or Lake Druzhby in a couple of weeks when we will have a few hours of total darkness at a reasonable time of day. Fingers crossed that some even more stunning photos come out of that sortie!