Maine photographer discovers the bitter beauty of winter frozen in the ice before it snows again
FALMOUTH, Maine – The past few weeks have been a great time for wild ice skaters in southern Maine. Cold temperatures and little snow have created large expanses of smooth, natural ice on top of lakes, ponds and rivers.
Currently, Yarmouth’s frozen Royal River offers over 10 miles of uninterrupted cruising for riders. Sebago Lake’s Jordan Bay looks like glass this week, much to the delight of skaters here and abroad.
Old Orchard Beach wildlife photographer and outdoor enthusiast Karl Ramsdell has been out and about every day, skating and snapping photos of the unique, icy beauty he has traversed. Getting out in Maine’s cold weather, Ramsdell said, is the only way for him to get through the winter months with his sanity intact.
On Wednesday, using an inflatable sail – and the power of the north wind – Ramsdell sailed up and down Highland Lake, straddling Falmouth and Windham.
Just before the wind picked up, Ramsdell shared some of his recent photography and told us why he doesn’t mind shooting and playing in the cold.
Q: When did you first discover photography?
A: About three years ago. I saw a snowy owl on a rooftop in Pine Point and was so captivated that I went to the camera store and asked them what they had that might get me a better shot of the owl than my phone. So, I bought a camera and started taking pictures of wildlife.
Q: Buying a camera is one thing, but how did you become so good at photographing animals and nature in just three years?
A: I took thousands of photos a day when I first saw this snowy owl – and it lasted about a week. I learned what I love. I’m trying to capture their souls, if you will. It’s like they’re trying to tell me something. When I photograph wild animals, for me, it makes them almost immortal. They live forever in my mind and on my hard drive.
Q: You must have been an outdoorsman before you got your camera.
A: Yes. All my life. I surf, I skate, I paddle a lot. I do mountain biking. I’m getting into kitesurfing. I do a lot of mountain hiking.
Q: Is photography just another way to enjoy the outdoors?
A: Yes. It gets me out and allows me a lot of solitude. I like to be in nature, to sit and wait, to see what happens.
Q: Winter doesn’t discourage you at all?
A: Not at all. I’m outside, all day, every day of winter — even if it rains, I go out to shoot. The key to enjoying winter in Maine and not losing your mind is finding outdoor activities. That’s what I did.
Q: In addition to your wildlife photos, you have found beauty in this winter’s ice itself.
A: It’s like snowflakes. Every lake is different. Everywhere you go you will find different ice creams – cool bubbles, all kinds of geometric shapes. I lie down on the mirror and listen.
Q: I camped on the ice and heard these sounds right under my ear.
A: I love this sound. It’s soothing to me. It is the sound of ice that makes new ice.
Q: Did you take advantage of this particular period of good skating and image time?
A: Yeah. I drive everywhere because the ice is so different everywhere. Last weekend, I was in Acadie. Today is Highland Lake. Tomorrow it will probably be Sebago Lake.
Q: Will this all be over once we have this blizzard on Saturday?
A: I think so. I’m glad we got this time, though. I skated every day, the ice was good.
Q: So what will be your next winter activity?
A: Hiking in the mountains. I enjoy hiking and sledding back down. I’ll hang up the skates for a while.
To see more of Karl Ramsdell’s photographs, visit his instagram page.