Lake Baikal : Trip Report by Daragh Muldowney

We are delighted to bring you some of Daragh’s amazing work and insights from Lake Baikal. The images below represent 3 trips, over 3 years and much of the work below has never been released before. We can’t wait to see Daragh’s exhibition and book coming later this year. Read on to hear lots more from Daragh and feast your eyes on his amazing work.

Daragh has been part of The ExploreLight team for the last 6 years and we are delighted to have such a great photographer work with us.

ExploreLight will be running Lake Baikal workshop with Peter Gordon & Daragh Muldowney again in 2021.

Lake Baikal Photography Workshop 2021 Join Us

Over to Daragh now … The story of Lake Baikal

I think its fair to say I have an obsession with ice. It began when I first set foot on Fox Glacier in New Zealand many years ago. This led me to take my campervan to Iceland in 2007 as part of my ‘Sand and Ice’ collection. This ice obsession was also a major factor on me climbing aboard the Killary Flyer and sailing to Greenland in 2013 to create ‘Out of Thin Air’, a book centered around ice and icebergs in the Arctic circle.

I had never heard of Lake Baikal until November 2016 when it came across my consciousness 6 times in the space of a month from 6 different sources. The largest freshwater lake on the planet by volume and up to 1600m deep in parts. The surface completely frozen in the winter with many different ice structures and patterns available to experience and photograph.

After a false start in February 2017, I made it to Irkutsk in February 2018, met with ‘Extreme Baikal’ and got straight into my first experience of Lake Baikal. It was -30C and it was sharp acclimatisation. Although the temperature was a shock the sheer beauty of the frozen lake helped me forget about the temperature.

There was so much to see from the icy vastness to sublime frozen bubbles, sapphire hummocks gently covered in snow to majestic cracks cutting through the crystal surface. This place was a surreal dream.

I was searching for a new project which I could turn into an exhibition and a book and it was only after we crossed the ‘Big Sea’ that I saw something that I could focus on. The locals have an un-official road system crossing Lake Baikal that they mark out using small pine trees and branches. These ‘trees’ act as Beacons guiding travellers across the lake avoiding dangerous cracks or impassable hummocks.

I returned in 2019 on a private tour and set about photographing these ‘Beacons’ in many different ways. I also started thinking how amazing it could be to bring a group of adventurous Explore Light People to this remarkable world. So, with lots of communication with Extreme Baikal, Aleksey (our guide), Jelena, Peter and I we began to piece a tour together that came into reality on February 22, 2020.

And what an adventure it was……

Every year Baikal presents us with very different conditions and this year was no different. 95% of the lake was covered with snow which meant the areas of clean ice could be very difficult to find. Aleksey worked very hard and managed to find one of the few areas that had clean ice enabling us all to experience the clarity of the frozen surface complete with cracks and bubbles.

The fresh snow, however, was a highlight. To see exquisite ice sculptures gently presented in clean virgin snow during a soft sunset was truly a spiritual experience and something I will never forget. I have suspicions that most of the group had a similar experience.

We had beautiful ice caves with crystals everywhere, we got to shoot the wonderfully iconic UAZ’s in many locations, we crossed the big sea, we drank vodka, we shot fisherman huts in full white out….we had some adventure!!

The group were fantastic…massive thanks to each and everyone of them for jumping in for Explore Lights first excursion to Lake Baikal.

My exhibition and book entitled ‘Beacons’ is currently being planned for a November 2020 launch but this could be changed depending on the current unprecedented situation.

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