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The Optics of Cold

Normally, for some reason, I avoid including any elements of the man-made world in my photographic musings, but this is an exception. Around 3 AM on the 29th of December, I was driving the Alaska Highway, approaching the small village of Burwash Landing, on the shores of Kluane Lake, Yukon.. The temperature was about 45 below and an encroaching warm front was pumping trillions of tiny ice cystals into the dry, cold air, creating patches of thick ice fog.

The moon, just past full, seemed enfolded in a haze of icy mist. The lights below are immediately recognizable to anyone who has lived in very cold regions ... they are the distant street lights along the highway where the road passes through the village. In conditions of extreme cold, beams of light, even ones horizontally aimed, are deflected straight upwards by the floating ice crystals. The headlamps of approaching cars can be seen miles away as as narrow pillars of light stretching directly up into the heavens.

Praktica VLC3 camera, Pentacon 29mm lens, 10 seconds on Fuji NPZ 800 film.

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Taken on January 15, 2008