Through Gripping Photos, Ryan Newburn Captures the Depths of Iceland’s Ancient Glacial Caves
“When you look into the walls of an ice cave, you are looking into the past as if you were suddenly inside of a time capsule that had been buried for 500 to 1,000 years,” says Ryan Newburn. “Every air bubble that you see is oxygen from a different time period. Every speckle of ash is from a different volcanic eruption.”
Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and now based in Reykjavik, Newburn is closely acquainted with the ice caves that surround his adopted home. He first came to Iceland in 2018, training on the enormous Vatnajokull Glacier before working as an expedition guide and eventually launching his own tour company, Ice Pic Journeys, with his fellow American business partner Mike Reid.
Today, Newburn ventures into the frozen caverns with groups, photographing them and the landscape along the way. His images capture the immensity of the arctic masses, their smooth, ribbed surfaces, and the shapely contours of caverns and rivers carving through the ice. Explorers are often seen in the distance, at the end of a rippling, rocky tunnel or precariously posed beneath a cluster of sharp icicles to showcase the scale of the openings.
Occupying such an ancient and always evolving space is an experience that’s difficult to photograph, Newburn shares, because the constant trickle of melting water, the roar of distant rivers, or even the unique interplay of light and glacier are impossible to depict entirely. “Underneath the ice, where the sun cannot penetrate,” he says, “your eyes slowly adjust from the bright sun to the glowing deep blue crystal walls of the ice cave. The more that your eyes adjust, the more saturated the blue gets. It’s a surreal visual experience that you cannot get from any photo of an ice cave.”
While shades of blue dominate most of his images, much of the walls are transparent and crystalline, making it appear as if you could “gaze into it for miles.” This clarity, he explains, is because glacial ice has low oxidation, about 10 to 15 percent only, due to the extreme pressure exerted during their formation that forced much of the oxygen from the snow as it compacted.
Although exploring these spaces is dangerous—Newburn emphasizes the necessity of proper gear and a guide who knows the ins and outs of performing crevasse rescues—it’s also an experience that truly only happens once. He elaborates:
What’s even more unreal is realizing that when you discover an ice cave for the very first time, you are the only human that has ever been inside. On a planet where almost every area of land has been explored, the glacier provides you with never-ending caves and structures to discover. This is because the ice is always melting away and forming something new that didn’t exist yesterday and won’t exist next year. This creates an unending sense of wanderlust of what I am going to stumble upon next when exploring.
Newburn shares many of his glacial adventures on Instagram, and you can find more about his company’s expeditions on its site.
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Shrouded in Mist, Spectral Icebergs Float Around the Antarctic Peninsula in Photos by Jan Erik Waider
In late 2019, Jan Erik Waider boarded the Bark Europa, a 56-meter-long wooden sailing ship constructed in 1911, bound for the Antarctic Peninsula. The Hamburg-based photographer, whose work centers on polar landscapes (previously), captured the multifaceted forms of glaciers and icebergs, steely grays of storms, and shrouds of mist during the 24-day voyage. Waider is known for his documentation of dramatic northern destinations like Iceland, Norway, and Greenland, and a trip to the southern extreme proffered an opportunity to expand on his series of atmospheric vistas with the project A Faint Resemblance.
Antarctica is approximately 98% covered in ice and nearly doubles in size in the winter when the sea freezes around its periphery. In summer, the sheets break up and calve thousands of icebergs, many of which are so vast that they can be measured in square miles. Waider captured the spectral forms of these floating, icy islands as the ship rounded the coastline, drifting through patches of fog that added an extra element of surprise when it cleared to reveal a new scene. “The infinite shapes and textures of icebergs in the polar regions fascinate me again and again,” he says, adding that “the proportions are unimaginable, considering that the largest part is still under water.” Waider is always astonished by the spectrum of the color blue, which on cloudy days can appear even more vibrant, as if glowing from within.
The poles have seen record warmth and ice melt in the past few years, which contributes to rising sea levels and alters the region’s ecosystems. Waider says, “I’m really drawn to landscapes that are transforming or vanishing like icebergs and glaciers. It has a fascinating and also a sad element, and every photo is a snapshot of a moment which is long gone by now.”
Waider is preparing to publish a photo book of more images from his Antarctica trip, emphasizing a holistic interpretation of the continent’s landscape, nature, wildlife, historic sites, and the Bark Europa. Find more of his work on his website and Behance and see how he achieves his distinctive style.
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Meltdown Flags Visualize the Climate Crisis’s Toll on Glaciers Worldwide
A new digital project called Meltdown Flags envisions the disastrous effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Countries with glaciers see a reduction in the amount of white on their flags, which serves as a visual representation of the shrinking ice masses. Canada’s middle section begins at full width in 1995 before condensing in both 2020 and 2050. The United States’ white stripes similarly are a fraction of their usual height by the middle of the century.
Created by the digital design studio Moby Digg, Meltdown Flags also functions as an online tool replete with statistics about the percentage of glacier retreat from 1995 to 2050, the nation’s population, landmass, and emissions. Information on Argentina, for example, details the consequences of melting glaciers in the Andes. “Although the Perito Moreno glacier has shown an advance in the past years, ice in this region is being lost at some of the highest rates on the planet,” the page says. “And as ice vanishes, heat increases, resulting in long periods of drought, heavy rainfall, and flooding which could affect up to 130,000 people.”
The project outlines the severity of global warming, saying that based on the current projections, glaciers will be gone by 2100 and “with them, 69% of the world’s drinking water.” Meltdown Flags begins its timeline in 1995 when the first United Nations Climate Change Conference occurred. The UN hoped to reach net-zero emissions and keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celcius by 2050.
To follow the global awareness movement, head to Instagram and Twitter.
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Dramatic Pastel Drawings of Shifting Glacial Landscapes by Zaria Forman
Pastel artist Zaria Forman’s subject of choice is the glacier. The natural phenomenon that occurs around the globe is a critical element of cold-weather ecosystems, as well as a barometer of global climate health. The Brooklyn-based artist travels worldwide, often accompanying scientific expeditions, to experience and document glaciers firsthand, taking thousands of reference photographs to inform her enormous pastel drawings.
In translating her real-world travels on to paper, Forman shares that she draws from memory as well as from her reference photographs. “Occasionally I will re-shape the ice a little, or simplify a busy background to create a balanced composition, but 90% of the time I am depicting the exact scene that I witnessed, because I want to stay true to the landscape that existed at that point in time.”
Forman shares with Colossal that her passion for remote landscapes was sparked in childhood, when she traveled the world with her family—including her fine art photographer mother. As an adult she has channeled this fascination with our planet’s vast and varied landscapes into her art practice.
Climate change is arguably the largest crisis we face as a global society. I feel a responsibility as an artist to address this in my work, especially since I’ve had the rare opportunity to travel to remote places at the forefront of the crisis. Psychology tells us that humans take action and make decisions based on emotion above all else. Studies have shown that art impacts our emotions. I convey the beauty as opposed to the devastation of threatened places in my work. If people can experience the sublimity of these landscapes, perhaps they will be inspired to protect and preserve them.
Many of the works shown here feature Greenland’s glaciers. Last winter, Forman also re-visited Antactica and Patagonia’s southern ice fields, and she has just started working on a series around Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. “Impressively, Perito Moreno glacier is the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet, surpassed only by the Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets,” Forman explains to Colossal. “It also happens to be the only glacier in the southern ice fields that is not retreating. But it’s not advancing, either. I am excited to dive into its details and textures in these new compositions.”
Next summer, Forman’s solo show will be on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle. The artist is also curating an exhibition for the National Geographic Endurance, a polar expedition ship, which will be installed in February, 2020. Follow along with Forman’s work and travels on Instagram.
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Surreal Blue Spheres of Ice Juxtaposed with Everyday Life Document the Unrelenting Pace of Melting Glaciers
Amidst everyday scenes of contemporary India, unusual blue spheres appear atop buildings, nestled next to marigold vendors, and resting on temple steps. Though the composite images, created by photographer Dillon Marsh (previously), are constructed, the chunks of lost glacier ice are a reality. Using data compiled from scientific reports, Marsh calculated and scaled the volumetric ice models for specific mountains that are losing their critically important glaciers. In a statement on the project, Counting the Costs, Marsh explained, “the aim is to draw attention to the dramatic climate changes that continue unabated while we go about our day-to-day lives.”
The South African photographer started this series in India because it is home to some of the world’s tallest mountains, and is planning to expand the series to other countries including the United States and Switzerland. Marsh, who often explores the relationship between the natural and built environment in his work, shares with Colossal that Counting the Costs draws from his previous series, For What It’s Worth. “There are a number of reason I’ve chosen to represent the volumes as spheres, but the primary reason is that it’s a recognizable shape and visually interesting, Marsh explains. “Aesthetically I want the images to be slightly surreal to counterbalance the serious themes I’m tackling.”
The photographer has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions, with his most recent solo show at Hydra + Fotografia in Mexico City. Marsh shares new projects and updates from his travels on Instagram and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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A Rare Tropical Glacier Captured at Night in Drone-Illuminated Photographs by Reuben Wu
In the ever-widening world of drone photography, Reuben Wu (previously) has made a name for himself with his unique images that combine lighted drone patterns with stark observations of natural land formations. Two months ago, Wu travelled to Peru to continue his body of work called Lux Noctis. Peru’s Pastoruri Glacier is a rare remaining tropical glacier, sited at 17,000 feet above sea level in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
The trip was part of the filming for a Great Big Story (previously) video series titled “Made From Mountains,” and involved research, scouting, and treacherous travel to safely reach the glacier. In addition to the logistical challenges and the frigid, remote location, Wu shares with Colossal, “I photographed the glacier with conflicting feelings. I wanted to show evidence of its alarming retreat, yet I was drawn to the epic scale of the ice which remained. In the end I leaned towards the latter, but each photograph represents a bleak reality, a fading memory of what once stood.”
You can see more of the artist’s illuminated photography on Instagram and Facebook. Wu’s artist book of his Lux Noctis series is available for pre-order and is already almost sold out. Reuben Wu’s “Coors Light: Made from Mountains” episode is featured on greatbigstory.com. (via PetaPixel)
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