Frozen lake landscape in Sweden by Neil Watson

Virgin Ice

I‘m a big fan of the wilderness of Sweden and indeed the country generally. I still remember vividly when I shot this. We were on a recce trip to Sweden with Ice Driver’s Andy McKenna, 550 kms north of Stockholm in early January, scouting for locations for his then new business. We were staying in a hotel nestling on the edge of a most colossal lake that wasn’t completely frozen, due to it’s size.

After a few excellent beers and a burger, we chatted in the bar with the staff. “The lake will freeze tonight, then that will be it until May”
“How do you know?”
“Just a feeling” was the sage reply.

Waking next morning at around 7.00 am, drawing back the curtains, something looked different, but I couldn’t figure what. Grabbing a camera and a coat, I walked quickly down in the pre-dawn light to the waters edge to see an amazing sight. What had been a vast expanse of open water last night was frozen. The blackness of the brand new ice was amazing, not yet thick enough to support my weight, but the vastness of it took your breath away. I’ve often heard the phrase, “silence ringing in your ears” and that morning, I felt that for the first time. The stillness made the air sing, my Canon 1DS sounding like a Howitzer as the shutter released. The only other sound was the tiny clinking of ice fragments along the shoreline, like rocks in a glass of malt whiskey. Watching the rapidly rising sun, a thin edge appeared on the horizon, giving the light that look that you sometimes see out of the window of long-haul airliners, with a thin, blood orange, line across the distant hills.
 (Neill Watson)
I shot a few more frames and then just stood, drinking in the scene, resisting the temptation to step out, onto the virgin ice.
As I stood in the cold, cursing my haste at leaving my room and the lack of clothing layers, there was the most amazing sound. Beginning far off to my left, then moving across the vastness of the lake to the right, a sound like a bull whip cracked down the lake, from one end to the other. The sound of the new ice shifting and settling.
I walked back to the hotel, grateful for one of those powerful cups of Swedish coffee, as I reflected on the amazing environment in that part of Sweden and that silence like no other I’d ever heard.

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