Throwback Thursday No. 17


Images from the Film Archives — 1998

Snow Covered Dunes - Island Beach State Park, NJ

Snow Covered Dunes – Island Beach State Park, NJ

One of the crown jewels in the NJ state park system is Island Beach State Park. A narrow, 10 mile long barrier island separating the Atlantic Ocean from Barnegat Bay,  most of which has been left in its natural state except for a few small developed areas for summer bathers and fisherman. It was always a place to go for the day with the kids, and as I began to photograph the state in earnest during the 1990’s, I would ocassionally go there for a sunrise shoot. However, since the park doesn’t open until 8am, to get in early enough for sunrise, I had to pose as a fisherman with a fishing pole stashed in the back seat of the car as proof (but no license).

But there were a few occassions when I would venture there during the winter to photograph the dune system with a blanket of snow, looking out to the ocean. That was never an easy prospect because several things had to fall in place in order for it to happen. Obviously, it had to snow, but not too much to make it impossible to drive there. It had to be one of my two days off from work; and it had to be fresh, because snow melts pretty quickly when it lands on sand, not while there was a blizzard going on either, and preferably, the tide would be coming in since an outgoing tide woukd leave an area without snow, which would have been less impactful. But to get into the park, I would have to leave the car outside the park, somewhere far enough away from the entrance to avoid the prying eyes of the gatekeepers (because they would never believe I was going fishing), and sneak in while trudging through the snow along the beach until inside the park!! Not something as easy as plop down the tripod and click the shutter.

So at some point during the winter of 1998, there was a confluence of all these elements, with the snow storm expected to clear out just after sunrise, I made a valient attempt to get the shot I was after. After the long drive, it was still snowing lightly as I made my way into the park, constantly looking ahead for possible places where I might take a photograph. Since I would be shooting back toward where I came from, I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave any tracks in the snow that might be in the shot, leaving the snow as pristine as I found it and making the statement, as was my usual intent, to convey a scene that may have actually taken place thousands of years ago, before the impact of man. So when there was a possible location ahead, I walked in a way to make sure  no tracks would be left in the frame. When I finally did find the spot, I took my time to set up the shot, making minor adjustments in tripod placement, and was waiting for the right wave to come along to trip the shutter. While waiting, I took another peak through the viewfinder to double check the placement of the foreground grasses, when I saw a park ranger Jeep pass through on the beach leaving some nicely defined tire tracks in the snow!! Whaaattt??!!

I had just driven two hours at an ungodly hour of the morning in the snow, trudged through snow drifts and cold to get into a position to take a unique shot of a clearing snow storm on the beach, only to have it ruined by tire tracks!! I just couldn’t believe my misfortune. $#@% !!  What to do now? What any determined photographer would do: whatever it takes to get the shot.

I circled around to get to the tracks, and walking backwards, used my feet to blend the snow into the tracks in an attempt to smooth them out, and make them less noticeable in the photo, making sure they were blended to cover the entire frame as seen through the viewfinder, and circle around to get behind the camera once again. Then, with my fingers crossed that the jeep would not return from the opposite direction, it was just a waiting game for a decent sized wave to break completely within the frame as a kind of distant focal point.

Today, it would have been no big deal to simply blend out the tracks in Photoshop. Progress!!

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