Upper Fusine Lake, Italy (2013)
I have to admit that I have a morbid fascination with avalanches, a fascination based in mind-numbing, soul-shaking fear. The idea of being tossed around like a rag doll while snow fills every orifice of your body and twists you like a pretzel around boulders and trees is distinctly unappealing to me. On this evening, I was completely focused on my photography and utterly mesmerized by the tranquility of this beautiful location until the sounds of the most tremendous commotion I had ever heard here came rumbling through the silence, causing reverberating echoes to bounce off of every slope around me. It went on long enough for me to assume that I was hearing a low-flying plane with a strangely low-pitched engine sound. I started to look around, wondering why I was unable to see anything in the sky, when the piercing sounds of trees snapping and boulders crashing joined in to create that familiar cacophony: avalanche!
I knew I was well out of harm’s way standing there by the shore of the lake, but I had no doubt that the deep powder and sunny conditions in the mountains had lured a lot of people into the danger zones—and surely this rip-roaring avalanche was just one of many in the Alps that day. It was a sobering thought, but it occurred to me that this beautiful day was surely the last for someone out there (and, as it turns out, it was for three skiers who perished in nearby avalanches that afternoon). That kind of realization tends to make the experience of enjoying a lovely view seem all the more precious, and I spent the rest of my time by the lake reflecting on my good fortune as I photographed what seemed to be a metaphor for life in general: like the thin layer of ice on this lake, it is delicate, unstable, ephemeral, and incredibly beautiful.