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It’s 11pm, and the sky has just melted into the electric blue of twilight. I’m covered head-to-toe in fleece but the wind is still sneaking chilly fingers down my back. Stretched out in front of me is 420 feet of US Coast Guard icebreaker, and at my back is the ice-covered water of the Bering Sea. The crew has just turned on the icebreaking floodlights, and the beams stab out into the night like dueling light sabers. All I need now is for the ice to cooperate. Too much sea ice, and the vibration of the ship’s hull crunching through it, will destroy my 6-second exposure. I wait, gloved finger on the cable release and my other hand on a tripod leg, until I feel the vibrations subside. The ship turns, the full moon slips behind a cloud… Click. Mirror up. Click. Shutter open. Thunk. Shutter closed, mirror down.
This first week has taught me that the best light in the Bering Sea happens after the sun goes down. For the first five days, we had nothing but lead-gray overcast skies. I can only do so much with a plain white, no-contrast background. Night to the rescue. As soon as it started to get dark on that first night, the deck lights came on and bathed the scientists and sea ice with beautiful light. Since then I’ve spent as much time as possible shooting the “available darkness” between dusk and dawn.
Speaking of dusk, it’s getting late, the ship is stopped, and instruments are about to go in the water. It’s time to zip up the exposure suit, pull on my waterproof, steel-toed boots and hard hat, and hit the deck with shutter blazing.