Photographer Ryota Kajita was a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2010 when he began taking pictures of ice formations up-close.
Intrigued by Alaskan swamps, ponds, rivers, and lakes, Kajita began to notice odd-looking “ice bubbles,” which he says are gases – usually methane – trapped beneath the surface.
“When water freezes,” Kajita says, “it turns into ice slowly from the surface and traps the gases. The bubbles and freezing temperatures create unique geometric patterns.”
And these patterns are nothing short of stunning. Using a medium format film camera, Kajita says he “aims to capture the beauty and the dynamic changes of water in nature.”
See for yourself how he does it with these 12 photos from Kajita’s “Ice Formation” series.
Kajita captures his images in black and white.
“By minimising colours,” he said, “viewers can focus on the elegance of the forms and shading created by clear transparent ice and white frost.”
The ice formations in this series range from 10 to 30 inches in diameter.
Kajita only has a small window of time to snap the photos — he has to do it before the first snowfall covers the formations.
“Winter’s first ice patterns become a magnetic subject for me,” he explained.
There’s also an element of nostalgia in Kajita’s work. “Wandering and looking for ice reminds me of boyhood treasure hunting,” he said.
“My footprints over unknown areas marked adventure and enjoyment of my childhood,” he elaborated.
Kajita has travelled to over 50 remote Alaskan villages.
“It is a conversation between nature and me. The photograph is the treasure I gather from my surroundings.”
Sometimes he’s in a two-seat aircraft, sometimes he takes a snowmobile.
“I strive to know the environment at a deeper level,” he said. “Genuine curiosity propels me to actively engage the place where I live.”
Kajita’s photos have been exhibited in both Japan — his home country — and throughout the US.
For this “Ice Formation” series, he was chosen as finalist of Lens Culture’s Earth Awards in 2015, as well as a 2017 recipient of the CENTER Project Launch Grant – Juror’s Choice.
At the end of the day, Kajita hopes his photography compels “viewers to feel connected to nature, inspire their curiosity of natural phenomena, and invite them to explore the geometric beauty in the details of the organic patterns.”
He also hopes the pictures will spark a dialogue about climate change.
He concludes, “Everything – even if it appears to be insignificant – connects to larger aspects of our Earth.”
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