While in Sweden over the Christmas season, we noticed the popularity of candelabras placed in the windows of people’s homes. In these northern latitudes where the darkness of the winter night dominates the few hours of daylight, the distinctive chevron of lights provided a cheery greeting from the windows of the traditional-styled Swedish houses.
I thought it would be a nice accent to our own home with its not-so-traditional windows cut into a mansard roof. Surely Ikea would have such an item, with some suitable unpronounceable name, but I was disappointed. Perhaps I needed to shop the Ikea stores in Sweden rather than our Americanized versions of them.
Glacier Park presents its most fascinating face at the end of a road that penetrates as far as it can into the body of the park before being stopped by dramatic features with names like “The Garden Wall”, “Iceberg Notch”, and “The Salamander”. At the end of the road is a hotel that is bathed in views of these mountain features and other spectacular carved peaks, many of which still bear glaciers. Hence the name of this unique place, Many Glacier.
In front of the hotel is Swiftcurrent Lake, candidate for my desired composition containing reflected star trails. On the night I was here however, so was the moon. I waited for it to set, a long wait until it finally fell below the horizon. Until then it was eclipsed by Grinnell Point, looming in front of me. Although the moon was now no longer directly visible, it still lit the sky. Film is cheap (I keep telling myself) and I never know if the sky will stay clear, so I made several exposures during the moon’s gradual hidden descent. The wind was calm, and the lake became smooth. I hoped the conditions would hold.
I dared only leave the shutter open for 30 minutes though; the sky would wash out if exposed longer. During this time the moon drifted down behind Grinnell Point, leaving a trailing glow. I looked around at the scene, wondering what else would be captured on film.
The lake had become so calm and the water was so clear that I could see the bottom! I was intrigued by the array of fallen trees and rocks and other natural lake bottom material. Then I took a larger view and found it a bit distracting. I wondered if the camera would see reflections of the stars at all. How is it that I could see this underwater debris anyway? The moon wasn’t bright enough to light the scene in this way.
Behind me, the hotel guests had gradually turned out their room lights and gone to bed. But like all contemporary buildings, modern or primitive it seems, there were outdoor security lights aimed all around, including at me by the shore of the lake!
The Many Glacier Hotel is an old renovated lodge-like building. A combination of rustic log construction and swiss chalet trim makes it a novel structure at the edge of the lake. Its five stories make it seem unnaturally tall, even in an environment of tall lodgepole pines. Each floor has a lakeside balcony, each balcony connects with an outdoor stairway, each staircase with an access door illuminated by floodlights. Here was the source of my unwanted lighting.
I proceeded up the stairway, stopping at each door, and with gloves normally intended for cold-protection, unscrewed each overhanging floodlamp bulb until the entire end of the hotel became dark. It was a clandestine act, but in the name of fighting local light pollution I committed the deed.
The moon was still setting, now behind the distant peak of Swiftcurrent Mountain. Wisps of clouds were coming in, the air frequently breaking the glass surface of the lake, but I made a one-hour exposure, this time without the distraction of the foreground lake bottom.
Note from the future: The invention of photographic film, a light-sensitive emulsion on a flexible strip, along with the access to photo labs, allowed photography to become widespread and popular throughout the entire 20th century. But there were distinct limitations associated with film that simply don’t exist in modern digital photography. The limited number of exposures that could fit on a roll of film was one of them, requiring careful consideration of what scenes were worthy of each precious frame. There was also a need to keep the film safely stored away from direct light and at the right temperature and humidity. But the most severe limitation was that there was no “preview”; each exposure was taken on faith, because the film needed to be chemically developed and printed before the success (or failure) of a shot could be determined.
I was now a week into my travels and had experienced the luck of good weather and had succeeded in making a few exposures of the night sky from my small arsenal of cameras. Some of them were astrophotos taken at the prime focus of a telescope, and others were time exposures of the landscape rotating under a starry night. I was starting to complete entire rolls of film (although admittedly, some were quite short—only 12 exposures. But even if the film had not been completely utilized, I was eager to find out if my settings and techniques were working. I would happily wind off the rest of the roll to see if those first few exposures yielded successful images. But that meant that I would need to find a place that could develop them.
There are many iconic views of beautiful scenery in our country. Some are identified by “scenic viewpoint” highway signs where the engineers designing and building the routes through the American landscape couldn’t help but be impressed and decided to make it easy for drivers to pull out to stop and enjoy the view too.