Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step

Each winter, I dedicate a good portion of my photography to ice and snow. I really don't like cold weather, but for some reason, when I'm out photographing the frozen lakeshore, I don't mind so much. Along with the beauty of the ice, comes a lot of danger. It's easy to forget that these huge mounds of ice are deadly - very deadly. In between the 15 foot thick mounds of ice are dangerous holes - some leading directly to the deep, frigid waters below.

These holes are often covered over by loose, drifted snow or a paper-thin layer of ice. One step and you're in Lake Michigan - 33 degree Lake Michigan, with no way out. It's similar to falling into an open sewer, except there's no ladder to help you out, and you are pushed around under water by the wave action, so you don't pop up where you fell in.

In the photo here, Mike stands near one such hole. This one was easy to see, plus it was formed by waves crashing onto the beach, so it was not over water. Just a few feet to his right is the waterline of Lake Michigan, and the shelf ice continues for hundreds of feet off shore. The water is over 10 feet deep a few yards out, making it impossible for anyone to stand up and attempt to climb out. Besides, the sides of the shaft leading to the surface is slippery ice, and the water is so cold, muscles don't work.

If you're out near Lake Michigan in the winter, resist the temptation to walk on the shelf ice - it's much more beautiful from the top of the dunes, than from the bottom of the lake.

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