A couple years ago a local photographer started shooting nudes at the frozen waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park in near-central Illinois. One of the things that bugged nearly everyone who saw his shots was that the always had the models in boots of some kind. His argument, when this was mentioned in critiques, was that a barefoot model would stick to the ice.
Enter local photographer Greg Kolack, who agreed with me that that wouldn’t be the case. So we planned to shoot at the very same frozen falls, with me going barefoot. I wouldn’t be nude, but we agreed that a black leotard, short tights and a flowy skirt would look great there. Greg and I also agreed that instead of standing in front of the ice falls, I’d dance as well as interact with them however we saw fit once we got there. We planned and planned, but for nearly 2 years we couldn’t get our schedules (and the weather) to cooperate.
Things finally worked out this past February, early in the month. Because I’d had so much time to plan, I did a little research and found FootUndeez, which are lyrical dance “shoes” that slip over the ball of your foot and places a suede pad between your foot and the ground, providing a bit of extra traction. They’re designed to not show much and not cover the entire foot. I picked up a pair figuring the traction would be a good idea, that the tiny suede pad wouldn’t make much of a difference with the cold, and that worst case, there might be minor photoshopping to be done to remove some lines.
When the day finally rolled around to shoot, Greg and I met in Joliet and carpooled to Starved Rock from there. It was a beautiful crisp sunny winter day with temperatures in, I believe, the 20’s with minimal wind, which was optimal. I brought a blanket, hand warmers, heavy-duty winter boots, and wore lots of layers, because although it wasn’t super-cold out, we’d be hiking for quite some distance to get to certain falls. Under everything I wore my leo and tights, so that changing would be (relatively) easy.
Anyway, we shot in two locations, with the first being slightly disappointing because the water wasn’t frozen enough to cross, meaning we weren’t able to get up close and personal with the specific falls, so we had to alter our idea slightly. As anticipated, the FootUndeez didn’t make a difference when it came to the temperature, but definitely helped with traction on the ice. Worth noting, however, that when I put my heels down on the ice, there was no danger of sticking to the ice at all. Even at the second location where I went right from hiking to standing on ice, I wouldn’t have stuck if I was 100% barefoot (though I would definitely have slipped and fallen on my ass).
The second fall was 100% frozen up to the two columns of water though, which made us happy. There was also significant ice at the base of one of the falls, where the column had broken and fell due to higher temperatures the week prior. The only downside to being able to get up close and personal with the falls was the fact that there was still running water on the inside of the columns, which managed to splash its way outside of them, making both the columns and the ice around them very wet. Wet ice means not just slippery ice, but also higher temperatures. When your hands and feet are dry, they react less to the cold and it’s easy to temporarily forget about it. When they’re wet, it’s hard to do that because they get very cold very fast. It’s also much easier to slip and fall if, say, you’re climbing around large ice formations, even with the extra traction from the suede pads (which most certainly lessened when the FootUndeez got wet). Good news is, I wasn’t hurt when I fell (though I did have some wicked bruises), and the placement of where I was when I fell ended up working out haha!
After shooting, Greg took me to dinner where I had a few cups of coffee to warm up, fried pickles, and a grilled cheese sandwich. Nommy! Good news is, I left Starved Rock with all fingers and toes in tact, yay! ;) In fact, I didn’t even go numb until the very last set, which was surprising given my suspected Raynaud’s Phenomenon. The next day, I was sore as hell, both from the movements I was doing (despite stretching, though I think the cold affected things as well) and the fall I took. But it was so worth it!
Anyway, here are some pics! I’ve pulled the color ones, though I have nearly all of these shots in B&W as well. There are more than this, but these 4 show off all of the various locations pretty well. You can click all of the thumbnails to view the full web-size shots. All of the below shots are copyright Greg Kolack.
The top right shot is location number one, where I danced at the top of an active fall. There was a bit of bare rock there that was perfect, and the photographer shot from down below.
In the second shot (top left), I’m down near where the photographer shot the first set from. The water there was frozen 100% solid (and 100% clear, which was neat) in some places, so I stood on that as well as on some of the rocks there. In the shot above, I’m standing on the ice. You can see where I was in the first shot in the background.
In the bottom right shot, I’m standing next to one of the two columns of ice. You can see part of the incredible hollowed out rock at the base of the pool. If you look close, you can also see my reflection, as the ice I’m standing on there is rather wet.
And in the bottom left shot, I’m actually sitting in part of the ice formations made as a result of a combination of the fallen ice and the new ice that froze when the temperatures dropped. This is one of the shots that was taken after I slipped and fell in the formation itself (I was, at one point, standing in there).
All in all, I’m very pleased with the results, and plan on making up a few prints to hang in the house (once I make up my mind). And yes, I’d do it again… in a heartbeat :)
If you’d like to see more of Greg’s work, check out his ModelInsider portfolio or his ModelMayhem portfolio.