Tompkin’s Landing Ice Bridge

Two bridges have been built to cross the Peace River in northwestern Alberta, one at Dunvegan and another at Fort Vermilion. In our region, wood chips used for making strand board are transported from mills in and around La Crete, a Mennonite settlement in the region, to a strand board plant north of the town of Peace River. Rather than follow a circuitous route back through Fort Vermilion, then High Level and down to Peace River, a road has been carved through the Blue Hills forest and farming community to a place on the river called Tompkins landing. Here, a ferry runs through most of the year, night and day to keep the chip trucks moving and to provide travelers from La Crete access to the highway taking them south to Peace River, Grande Prairie or Edmonton; in size, the ferry can hold four chip trucks in one go across the river.

In late November or early December, with colder temperatures the ferry is pulled from the river and ice clusters. A few brave souls who have the knack for it create a pathway across the ice, watering it daily just as you would an ice rink in your back yard. An old red, seventies three-ton GMC grain truck holds a portable cistern – each day, morning and night someone pumps river water into the cistern and then drives the grain truck across the ice bridge spreading water on the ice surface. The mass of ice increases on top and from the bottom until with sustained colder temperature -20C to -30C, the ice bridge that is formed is four feet thick, able to hold the weight of a chip truck crossing the kilometre wide path.  Ice bridge creation is a practice repeated two hundred kilometres further up the river at Fox Lake, on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The photographs here present the ice bridge somewhat compressed with a zoom lens; the actual distance across the river is more than a kilometre.  Those driving across the bridge need to travel at a speed of 10 km/h.  The photographs also present a look at a dry-docked ferry.

Listening to Radiohead’s There, There from the Best of Radiohead; other songs have been Unknown Caller from U2’s No Line on the Horizon and finally there’s been Over the Rhine’s Born from Drunkard’s Prayer.

Quote to Inspire – “Different levels of photography require different levels of understanding and skill. A ‘press the button, let George do the rest’ photographer needs little or no technical knowledge of photography. A zone system photographer takes more responsibility. He visualizes before he presses the button, and afterwards calibrates for predictable print values.” – Minor White – [Minor White, Richard Zakia, Peter Lorenz The New Zone System Manual, Morgan & Morgan, Inc., Dobbs Ferry, New York 1978 (Fourth printing), p. 93]

  6 comments for “Tompkin’s Landing Ice Bridge

  1. March 23, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    So many moods conveyed through these photos-and the quality ofl light in many of these are wonderful-nicely done!

    • March 23, 2013 at 8:59 AM

      Hey there, … hello …

      Post-process editing leads as much as we follow intention – it’s cool to discover what can be revealed in a photo.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  2. March 31, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    Absolutely fascinating. The story of the Ice Bridge and the photos to complete the picture. Very nice. Thanks for the like of my post “Clouds Parting or Closing?”.

    • March 31, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Hello, hello …

      Maybe it’s because it is spring and the initial convection that removes snow from the ground, but clouds seem to be a part of the backdrop in this spring season. I’ve been looking through photos to highlight clouds in the last few days.

      The ice bridge at Tompkins landing and at Fox Lake are something to try out, perhaps not too, too early into their construction … January and February are optimal times; and, within this next few weeks travellers will still go across with a foot of water on the top-side of the ice bridge (most will be driving with their windows rolled down).

      When you have time, you might want to check out NIK software and its use with Adobe Lightroom; both are intuitive, easy to use programs … they can bring-out more of the structure in your subject (e.g. cloudwork). I suggest being aware of these programs and taking time to investigate what they are about before committing to them – listen to podcasts like ‘the Candid Frame’ or ‘Shuttertime with Sid and Mac’. Also, check out Kelby Training ….

      Anyway … glad to be able to look-in on Random thoughts. Take care 🙂

      • March 31, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        Thank you. I do use Adobe Lightroom as an organizer for my files. One of these days I am hoping to learn more about that Develop module. I use Nik software before I edit my photos. I most often use tonal contrast and sometimes I use Viveza for the clouds. Thanks for the suggestions.

      • March 31, 2013 at 10:18 AM

        Hey there, …

        Good to read that you’re using both Viveza and Colour Efex. Viveza is good for sharpening and accentuating. In Colour Efex in the Weddings section there is Dark Contrasts and in Landscapes there is a section called Brilliance/Warmth – there I will often accentuate perceptual contrast. I’m sure you’ll already realize that much of the work with editing is about playing with versions to discover edits that appeal. Develop is good if you’ve downloaded presets that you know you like and its a place to create presets that you’ll return to.

        Anyway … you’re well on your way! Good schtuff!! 😉

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