Behind the Lens: Born of Glaciers

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Born of Glaciers

Exposure Data:
1/640 sec, f/18, ISO 200
Nikon D300 Camera, Nikkor 18-70mm lens at 52mm

Aerial photography—from planes, helicopters, and drones—has given us a better understanding of the Adirondacks’ geology, and a deeper appreciation for the geometry of its beauty. In this view from 2,000 feet we get a map-like perspective on the intricacy of today’s watery landscape, one born of glaciers. To freeze any motion caused by the plane’s vibration and speed, I shot at a fast 1/640 second.  Even with that, the bright winter landscape allowed me to use a small aperture—f/18—for good depth of field, and a low ISO for nice image quality with little noise.

In the foreground lies a classic circular kettle pond at the base of a sinuous, steep-sided esker that winds towards the upper part of the image, separating some of the most beautiful waters in the Adirondacks. The Saranac Lakes Wild Forest, a paddlers’ and campers’ paradise at other times of year, is now under a blanket of snow and ice, and there’s little evidence of human incursion. In the middle left is Follensby Clear Pond, notable for its islands and peninsulas. Up and over the esker to the right is Polliwog Pond. The esker then winds around the distinctively-shaped Horseshoe Pond, in the center of the frame, before leading our eyes towards the ski center on Mt. Morris in the distance.

The kettle pond formed in a depression resulting from a large block of melting ice. The esker is composed of sand and gravel deposited by run-off streams beneath a retreating glacier over 10,000 years ago. Visually, it provides a guiding line that takes us from the kettle pond up through the image. The splaying shorelines pull us to other interesting areas.

A thought-provoking composition is important, even in aerials. This one helps tell the story of how this beautiful winter landscape was created. Compositions flew by fast from my speeding vantage point, but when the picture-taking and storytelling merged in a single frame, the pursuit was exhilarating!

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. He will be leading his Adirondack Winterscapes workshop February 10th–13th in Lake Placid. For information and to register, see API’s website: You can find information on all of API’s 2019 workshops there. For more on Mark’s work, visit

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