Sunrise on the morning of the first snow of the season at Crater Lake Lake National Park, Oregon. Crater Lake National Park is...

Frigid Dawn

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Sunrise on the morning of the first snow of the season at Crater Lake Lake National Park, Oregon.

Crater Lake National Park is a magical place. At 1,943 ft. it is the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest in North America and the ninth deepest in the world.  The waters are fed only by precipitation and snowmelt, thus making the waters extremely pure, clear, and blue. In early October 2014, The subalpine environment was my home for two weeks as an artist-in-residence through the National Park Service.

Taking on the residency was overwhelming. For one, it was a major escape from the stresses of life in the city. The gratitude I felt at being awarded the opportunity was immense and surreal. On the other hand, I had a focus of being there and that was to communicate, document, or highlight the effects of climate change happening within the park through my photography. Taking on this project, an external influence on my work, was something I had never dealt with and something that I struggled with.

I realized in those first few days that I needed to shed expectations and create the photos that I normally do. I needed to connect with the environment on an emotional level. I feel that when I am disconnected, the photos I take lack a certain kind of soul. They feel empty to me. Flat. I believe that having emotion in my work is my best tool for communicating via imagery and that hopefully, viewers on the other end are also able to feel that connection, or at least get an idea of how I feel about nature and why it's so important to me.

As I watched the first light of day illuminate the horizon on the morning after the first snow of the season, I was awestruck at the scene. The landscape took on a whole different feel than what I had been seeing for a week. The snow played in harmony with the color of the lake. I could feel the crisp air rushing into my lungs and the quietness of the snow covered landscape in the early morning was almost deafening. It's these moments that cover me in goosebumps and, at times, bring me to tears.

In these kinds of serene conditions it's hard for me to imagine the violent, cataclysmic eruption that happened almost 8,000 years ago, quickly and dramatically changing the landscape. It's also easy to forget the changes that are occurring slowly and quietly, some of which we humans play a major role in. All I know is that I can't take these natural environments for granted. I owe it to myself, to my son, and to the earth itself. Photo © copyright by TJ Thorne.