Deep inside a vaulted chamber of cerulean blue ice, Jonathan Tucker set up about $5,000 worth of camera equipment, hoping to get just the right shot.
It was the fall of 2013 and the 29-year-old Whitehorse resident was exploring the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska, which is receding at an alarming pace – almost three kilometres in the past 50 years.
Water poured inside from a hole in the middle of the cave, forcing Tucker to wipe off his Nikon 14-24 millimetre wide-angle lens after each shot.
He’d been told by locals not to venture inside the melting glacier because of the risks.
“It’s scary because when you hear a crack in there it’s like a lightning bolt, you feel like you’re in a thunder storm,” he said.
“You want to take your shot and get out of there.”
Last week, Tucker found out that one of the pictures he took that day nabbed him a second-place prize in the Trierenberg Super Circuit photography competition, which attracts thousands of entries every year in categories ranging from “children of the world” to “African wildlife.”
Tucker received 3,000 Euros (about $3,900 CAD) for the picture, entered in the “discover the world” category.
There’s also a ceremony to be held in Austria in October, which he will try to attend, he said.
It’s since been published in photography magazines, featured on the National Geographic website and even included as part of an exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco.
In terms of the prize money, he’s narrowed it down to two options: either explore northern Alaska for more glaciers or travel to Iceland, a paradise for landscape photographers.
Tucker is a self-taught photographer who first became interested in the hobby about six years ago.
“I happened to buy a camera one day,” he said, “and never tried to become a photographer, it just sort of happened.”
“I love nature and being out there, it’s cool that I can express myself and show it to the world.”
Photography has a therapeutic effect on him, he said. His landscape pictures, whether of the northern lights or majestic mountains, are usually taken in remote locations.
It’s one of the keys of taking the perfect shot, he added.
“Location, location, location,” he said.
“I also talk to other photographers or do research online to find interesting spots. When I do find one, I make a note of it to go back when the season is right.”
To obtain this award-winning picture, Tucker was originally going to kayak across the Mendenhall Lake to get to the 19-kilometre long glacier.
But they told him at the visitor’s centre that it was too dangerous, so he walked along a rudimentary footpath for almost 90 minutes before he reached the glacier.
He spent a half hour walking on top of it, which he described as “walking on sharp glass – you don’t want to fall.”
He found a waterfall that had created an opening in the glacier, which he walked into, but not without a certain amount of trepidation.
“It was breathtaking,” he said of the moment he stepped inside.
“Scary and beautiful at the same time. None of the tour guides will take you there, though.”
He heard that the opening to that cave collapsed last year, so he couldn’t go back even if he wanted to, he said.
When asked why he took the risk of going inside, it was a simply reply.
“You only live once.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org