In the blink of a millenium

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2000

A humble, ice-covered pond near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center has joined the company of flying foxes, boiling lava and ancient redwoods.

Juneau-based landscape photographer Jeff Gnass captured the pond on New Year's Day, 2000, as part of an international project documenting nature at the dawn of the new millennium. ``Daybreak 2000'' features the work of 123 photographers, who all shot their color photographs on New Year's Day.

``The book is not filled with sunrise-on-winter-scenes of North America. There were photographers around the world, which makes it a more dynamic book. There are photographs of just about every environment represented,'' Gnass said.

Galen Rowell shot dawn over the Pacific Ocean from Fiji, just west of the international dateline. Underwater photographer Mark Strickland shot Bannerfish off the coast of Thailand. Mark Harris photographed Japanese snow monkeys in natural hot springs.

Alaska is featured three times. In addition to Gnass's image, Wasilla photographer Fred Hirschmann captured the blush of dawn on Denali, and German photographer Norbert Rosing shot eagles in Homer.


Gnass with his camera, photographed by Mark Kelly.

In a move that Gnass said is unprecedented in his experience, the book was produced in six weeks and hit national bookstores at the end of February. It should be available locally at Hearthside Books in a week.

The project was the inspiration of Roger Tefft, a journalist-turned- real-estate lawyer in Costa Mesa, Calif. Tefft said he wasn't trying to cash in on millennium hype with the project. He said it was a labor of love, a tribute to the natural world at a time when people were focusing on technology and the virtual world.

``All the years growing up, the year 2000 was this metaphor for a time in the future when humanity would be commuting to work in space ships and transmitting food through telephones - the age of the future,'' Tefft said. ``It seemed appropriate instead of focusing on how far we've come, instead to reflect on how much we've left the earth alone.''

Tefft came up with the idea in 1997, and first contacted Gnass two years ago. Tefft said he tried to enlist the best 130 landscape photographers in the world. He said he hopes the international approach will help make the book accessible to people of many cultures.

``It's nice to work on something with a positive theme. Nature photography delivers the same message in every language,'' he said.

Tefft let the photographers pick their own subjects and locations. He said he also respected that they were working on a holiday when they could be with their families.

``Daybreak 2000'' is Tefft's first book effort. It's published by the NorthWord Press, a division of Creative Publishing International, based in Minnesota.

Gnass (pronounced Ga-noss) has been a professional photographer for 20 years, specializing in large format color work. Giant file cabinets line the walls of his Mendenhall Valley office, archiving most of his 75,000 images. Calendars, posters and dozens of books featuring his work fill the office.

He's photographed from Patagonia at the southern tip of South America to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; he's shot in England and New England. He's also contributed work to hundreds of magazines, books and calendars.

Gnass said he left a career in satellite communications to pursue his love of climbing and photography. In the 1980s he based his operation closer to the main publishing centers of New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and traveled about nine months a year shooting.

Over those years, he crossed paths with many of the same photographers that contributed to ``Daybreak 2000.'' Many became good friends.

``Nature brought them together,'' said Gnass's partner, Laurie Ferguson Craig. ``They all came to photography with an interest in science and the environment.''

Gnass settled in Juneau in 1996. He now spends four or five months a year outside the state.

``We live in one of the more photogenic places in North America, so now it's all in my backyard,'' he said.

He just completed a guide book on Nevada, and last year published ``Desert Awakenings,'' which featured selected images from his portfolio of the five North American desert ecosystems. He recently collaborated with a writer and historian on a book about the Pony Express Trail.

``We present the environment to people who can't spend as much time out there as we can,'' he said.

To visit ``Daybreak 2000's'' Web sitego to www.daybreak2000 .

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