Monday, September 28, 2009

Mother Nature in Tears

July 16, 2009 - Austfonna ice cap located on Nordaustlandet in Svalbard, Norway

Sometimes an image just seems to be too good to true! The image above has caused quite a stir around the world in so many ways. When I took the image early in the morning on July 16, 2009 from the bow of the National Geographic Explorer I was struck by the unmistakable likeness of the face of a woman crying. In fact once my mind locked onto the face it was hard to see any other pattern in the ice cap. I was moved to photograph this particular waterfall several different ways with a couple of different lenses. It was one of the best examples of a human likeness I have ever witnessed in nature.

All well and fine but now comes the controversy. The image was picked up by one of my best stock agencies in the U.K. and the face was likened to Mother Nature. I loved the stylized look of the waterfall as it formed the pool of tears, and think it is strikingly similar to what a thoughtful yet mournful Mother Nature might appear to look like, and what better place to appear than on the face of the largest (by area) retreating ice cap in all of Europe?

Of course folks on one side of the climate change issue took it as a sign, while folks on the other side of this same issue were sure the image was fabricated. "Photoshop Experts" started weighing in on how the image was manipulated or downright faked all together. From my perspective as the photographer who took the image I am amazed at what strong sentiments this image has provoked, and the ensuing attacks on the authenticity of the face. So here it is, as simply and plainly as I can say it:

This image was shot on July 16, 2009 with a Canon 50D digital camera body and a Canon 70-200mm f2.8L lens. The camera settings were 1/640 second at f5.6, handheld. The image was shot in Canon Camera Raw (CR2) file format. The ONLY things done to this image in Photoshop were a slight crop (to straighten the horizon), color correction (to match the blue of the glacier to what I saw), and sharpening (which RAW photos all require). That's it. Nothing was added or taken away, altered, fabricated, or manipulated.

Is this Mother Nature in Tears? If you want it to be then I say absolutely!

Is it a sign of climate change? Of course, the ice cap is retreating and has been for many years now.

Is this a beautiful stylized look of a woman's face in the Austfonna ice cap? This thought is exactly what moved me to create the image.

Was the image fabricated, manipulated, altered, or down right faked? Absolutely not. The image is exactly as it appeared to me (or as close as minor adjustments in Photoshop could make it). I have the RAW file to prove it, and if you chose to believe otherwise that is of course your right. It is just sad (and pitiful) that anyone would choose to make accusations against someone they don't even know about something they weren't even around to witness for themselves. Really, don't you have anything constructive or positive to do in your life? No? Try a little harder!

Enough already. I encourage everyone to go and experience Mother Nature for themselves, wherever (and however) you can find her! Perhaps she will change your life, as she has changed mine. I have hope for even the most ardent unbelievers. The beauty is all around you, you just have to open your eyes (and heart).

The Austfonna ice cap from the bow of National Geographic Explorer.

Waterfalls formed in the melting ice cap.

A black-legged kittiwake on the wing in front of the ice cap.

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