Standing on a 10 Foot Frozen Wave

Yesterday I stood on top of a 10 foot frozen wave looking out over the vast icy seascape of Lake Superior. I was shooting footage of this endless field of frozen waves as the setting sun turned them every shade of blue, purple and orange. It was quiet – incredibly quiet – no car or airplane noise, no voices, and no sound of splashing water, not even the sound of a bird. The audiometers on my camera barely registered a blip and yet there was audio. Even dead silence has a sound.

I’ve been on the Upper Peninsula in the far northern reaches of Michigan, shooting footage for a family biography that I’m working on. I had recorded interviews with my mother’s siblings this past summer while attending a family reunion and I had been planning on returning to capture some winter footage to illustrate the stories they told during the interviews. My mother, her siblings and her parents grew up in northern Michigan during the Depression, farming, lumbering, and fishing – pretty much doing whatever they could to survive. Times were hard and living in such a remote, harsh climate didn’t make it any easier. Everyone did what he or she had to do.

While I’ve been in the UP, I’ve met a lot of people who are doing all types of things to survive during this lousy economy. Most I’ve met have several part time jobs. A couple of times I stopped to eat at a restaurant, there would be one woman tending the bar, waiting on tables and cooking the food. Because of it’s geographic location and its sparse population, the Upper Peninsula is kind of like a frontier and the people who live here, have the spirit to go with it.

As I stood on the top of this frozen wave in absolute silence I contemplated resiliency of the human spirit in the context of my own world. Certainly my business has changed – due to technology and the lousy economy. Because of technology, I am able to do more things than I could ten years ago. Because of the poor economy, I’ve had to do more things. Most other photographers I have talked to this past year have diversified their businesses – some shooting weddings, some shooting video and some working in other retail markets. I suppose we’re all just doing what we can to get through these changing times.

So I looked out over the endless view of frozen waves and into the orange glow of the setting sun. For an instant I became fearful of where I was when I looked behind me and saw a deep crevice that I could easily fall into if I lost my footing. But then I looked ahead to the orange glow on the horizon and I felt hope and with that a sense of security because I knew where I came from and I have the heart and spirit to survive.

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44 thoughts on “Standing on a 10 Foot Frozen Wave

  1. 5kidswdisabilities February 22, 2010 / 9:52 am

    What an AWESOME picture. Absolutely amazing! We live on a lake and our is fortunately frozen like glass, (great for ice skating.)
    Lindsey Petersen

  2. lilady February 22, 2010 / 10:12 am

    What an amazing post, very inspirational. Something for everyone in those words, awesome.

  3. Whoa February 22, 2010 / 10:22 am

    beautiful shot! I did this yesterday … on Lake Erie in Port Stanley. Not nearly as impressive as your pictures – simply gorgeous.

  4. Lori Schmidt Lutze February 22, 2010 / 10:54 am

    That’s a beautiful pic and the words are, too. I’m contemplating resiliency and impermance as my dad faces some serious cancer. Many blessings to you today!! xo

  5. Mari February 22, 2010 / 11:29 am

    Thank you for sharing this experience Gail. I found this post very moving and it reflects my own thoughts sometimes of life and the things that we seem to take for granted like nature and its close relationship to the human spirit.

    I am an amateur photographer and am working towards improving my skills. I am especially interested in low light, food and flora photography.

    I would like to link this blog to my blog so that people can read your heart-warming stories – stories of the human spirit and to share your love of photography and great pictures.

    Kind regards,

  6. Slamdunk February 22, 2010 / 12:15 pm

    That is wild–nice photos.

  7. Angela Maieski February 22, 2010 / 12:19 pm

    I´m sorry, my english is bad but your photography is wonderful. The sound of silence… Congratulations.

  8. Gloris February 22, 2010 / 12:37 pm

    like the analogy in the last paragraph, the crevice behind, the sunset ahead.. My family lives by a river, which just freezes solid and flat. So, it’s interesting to see the frozen waves. Come and visit my blog sometime for encouragement as you are “doing what you can to get through.” Gloris

  9. kathyrandall February 22, 2010 / 12:51 pm

    you are a poet.

  10. destinationwashington February 22, 2010 / 1:19 pm

    Your perspective is excellent and comes at a time in my life when I needed to read it. My Family is from your neck of the woods so I’ve heard the stories of the cold but your photography and the image in your words brought back memories of stories told by my father. Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

    – Erik Aarness

  11. jenclinton February 22, 2010 / 1:54 pm

    Beautiful! Have you ever read “The Sparkling Eyed Boy” by Amy Benson? She wrote a memoir about living in the UP, but it’s about her first love. Great story.

  12. Redge February 22, 2010 / 2:09 pm

    Amazing picture. I also enjoyed reading your story. I can relate to the ambience of the setting and the “thinking” that goes through your mind simply by being in a place such as this.

    Thank you for sharing.

  13. Lakia February 22, 2010 / 2:40 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful! I really love this picture.
    Thanks for sharing…

  14. sal1981 February 22, 2010 / 2:54 pm

    what an amazing image. love your videos too, great stuff!

  15. dustymay February 22, 2010 / 4:28 pm

    That’s beautiful! Love the photo and the thoughts.

  16. pyrit February 22, 2010 / 4:41 pm

    Winter can freeze time and it can force everything to be still and silent, for a moment, a night, or for days.
    You used it to full effect.
    Oh, and, “freeze frame”!

  17. Mr. Banning February 22, 2010 / 4:42 pm

    That is an incredibly beautiful thing.
    I am sincerely impressed!

  18. groprofoco February 22, 2010 / 7:04 pm

    Where aboots in da UP? I attended NMU and I cherish the UP and hope it can stay as wild, but cosmopolitan as it has so far.

  19. Perico February 22, 2010 / 7:06 pm

    What a lovely picture and what a lovely moment. I wish I was there.


  20. momromp February 22, 2010 / 7:35 pm

    Gorgeous photo. I’ve been as far as the upper LP, but have yet to see the UP. Thanks for letting everyone see how beautiful this part of the country is.

  21. Michael February 22, 2010 / 8:02 pm

    Excellent photo.

    Well done sir,

  22. pt4themind February 22, 2010 / 8:30 pm

    I enjoyed the writing. Nice. The pic is awesome also. Thanks for sharing.

  23. seekraz February 22, 2010 / 11:05 pm

    I’d like to add something original, but that was all taken by the other 24 commentors…but it is freakingly beautiful…and your words match the photo…well done. Thank you.

  24. Meredith February 23, 2010 / 1:01 am

    lovely blog and beautiful image

  25. Uthe February 23, 2010 / 3:35 am

    Subhanallah…its very beautiful, I like it 🙂

  26. Moranna February 23, 2010 / 6:12 am

    Superlative sensations – I love the sounds of absolute silence – when you can find it. Lovely blog – thanks.

  27. Michael February 23, 2010 / 7:03 am

    Wow… that just sounds incredible. Thanks for the post.

  28. Becky February 23, 2010 / 9:07 am

    Holy beautiful picture and I truly enjoyed your point of view esp the last paragraph keep writing I really enjoyed reading

  29. Tom Jelen February 28, 2010 / 4:31 am

    WOW…Tj’s This is just tremendous! I got a pictire from a friend of mine that lived in the UP of a huge underwater freeze. It’z sort of like this but fantastically bigger. Any Way….Best from yer almost Cuz!!
    Tom Jelen

  30. Tom Jelen February 28, 2010 / 5:20 pm

    Beautiful to look and much to ponder. Lake Superior Is really something, winter or summer. Gitchee Goomie the lake of laughing waters. The UP definitely has characters with character in it. Good to know where you are from and you seem to know exactly where you are going…although exactly may be overstating it a little.

  31. Ethan G. Salwen March 6, 2010 / 12:28 pm

    Another wonderful post, Gail. Really nice!

    Thank you for the honesty.

    I blogged about this post on AfterCapture’s blog here:


  32. geri March 6, 2010 / 4:43 pm

    Your writing is lovely. This post more poem than blog and as finely crafted and inspiring as your photography.


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