It isn’t uncommon to see photographers take risks in order to get that great shot.  Often times you’ll hear the photographer talk boastfully about what a dangerous situation he or she was in.  Ok, sometimes those shot are impressive.  But no shot is worth your life and it’s easy to have that invulnerable feeling like tragedy can’t happen to you.

Sometimes those risks are obvious such as those photos of feet hanging off the side of a skyscraper or a cliff.  But more often than not, the risks are less obvious, but just as real.  You don’t have to be mountain climbing in some exotic location to experience danger.  It can happen right in your back yard or favorite vacation location.  It can happen at your favorite park.

By now we all have heard about the extremely sad events at Cave Point County Park on February 12, 2019 when we lost a fellow photographer.  This man, Eric Richter, appears to have fallen from the icy shoreline into Lake Michigan while visiting the park to take photographs.  As of March 9, 2019 he has not yet been found.  This really hit home for me and, I’m sure, many of you since we all love Cave Point so much. 

A few days ago, I was out at Cave Point to photograph sunrise for the first time in a while and was very impressed by all the packed snow and ice along the shore.  Cave Point in the winter really is beautiful!   I headed north along the beach and followed a very packed down trail along the water.  When there is so much ice and snow like this it can be difficult to ascertain where the trail is over land and where it is over water.  This trail was blazed over packed ice and snow that actually is over the water. 

Here are some examples.


ice and snow at Cave Point County Park in Door County Wisconsin creates safety hazards

As I walked along, I saw a few areas where an “ice shelf”, for lack of a better term, had collapsed.  This piece of snow and ice had packed down paths on it and was a part of this trail just days before.  If someone had been standing on it at the time of the collapse, he or she would have fallen into the lake.  Granted, this particular area had shallow water but these ice shelves form over the taller cliffs in the park as well.

We are in mid-March now and the weather will be transitioning to warmer temperatures.  Yay!  The warmer air will cause this ice and snow to soften more and more and eventually until this entire trail collapses. 

This is important to remember as we approach ice shove season as well.  It’s easy to want to climb on the ice shoves to get a better look.  However, it is important to remember that this can be dangerous too.  These ice shoves can have unstable areas waiting to collapse.  You can put your foot on one of these areas and open a hole that you fall right in to.  Here is a graphic I found online (credit:Tim Gill) that doesw a good job illustrating the dangers.

safety at cave point county park on ice shelves


If you’re lucky the rest of the ice shove won’t collapse after you fall in.  Scary, I know.  I have climbed on shoves in the past and have so far been ok, but when will my luck run out if I continue taking risks like this?  When will yours?

Ok, I’m going to get off my safety soap box.  I know it can be a little dry and what not, but it is important.  No shot is worth your life.  Winter is probably my favorite time of year for photography.  I love getting out in the cold to take photos of ice and snow.  But with a little knowledge of the possible dangers, you’ll be OK and be able to get some great shots.