The top of the world highway by Daniel Zvereff

The top of the world highway

by Daniel Zvereff

Photographs taken on a journey through Denali, Alaska, the Top of the World Highway, and Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon, Canada.

A heavy wind knocks me over and pins me to the ground, bringing me eye to eye with a small, striped chipmunk who scurries by uninterested. When the wind decides to briefly let up, I quickly scramble over a ridge, and there, below me, Denali stretches out into the distance. On a far-away road, I can make out lazy elks being stalked by hordes of photographers with telescopic lenses that resemble rifles. The clouds can’t decide if they want to hide the sun or not, which results in a valley polka-dotted with shadow and sun. The knowledge that I will never be able to convey how breathtaking everything around me is simplifies the moment, and I just enjoy it as it is.

From Fairbanks, it is a 14-hour journey along the Top of the World Highway towards carefully curated and manicured Dawson City, Canada. The weather blesses me with a dry day to explore Tombstone Territorial Park, where sharp rocks and scores of small lakes line the horizon. Trees of fiery orange and red fall colors grow increasingly sparse, and then, at an almost invisible line, the flora transforms into an arctic tundra. The air is cold, but the wind is warm, quiet and pure. Tonight, the Aurora gently dances, moving faster than I imagined it to, like the underside of a jellyfish bouncing around, molding into shapes and then growing tired and stretching across the night sky like a string. It is my first time seeing it.













  1. “Why didn’t you shoot color?” Well, why did he go there at all? Why shoot stills? He could’ve gone to the Bahamas and shot a music video instead!
    Please take a moment and appreciate a mans work for what it is, without constantly thinking about what he could have done differently!
    That’s my opinion, thanks.

  2. I would not have appreciated your amazing natgeo-like narration if you didn’t use monochrome. I personally prefer imaginining the breathtaking color using words alone. Thank you for your contribution.

  3. (Oops, my reply to you just got lost, as I switched between these photos and some of Daniel’s previous contributions and his website, etc I’ll try again..)

    Yes, I understand what you mean; gaps between the notes for the audience’s mind, if they’re on his wavelength, to “fill in”, to “savour”, to “participate in” making the music within the audience’s heads.

    But perhaps these are just too small to do that with: I’ve tried clearing my head, and looking at them as large as they’ll go without pixellation in Mac ‘Preview’; I’m nine inches from the screen, trying to “immerse” myself in these, but I think they’d really need printing two feet wide to give an immersive feeling – for me, anyway.

    I’ve tried to see them as a counterpoint, or a complement, to Daniel’s writing (..colourful, uplifting writing, dark and lowering B&W photos..) but they way they’re presented here is like hearing music through tinny headphones, or through weak and bass-less loudspeakers; the delivery medium just doesn’t seem to match the intention.

    I’m trying to see what you obviously see in these ..I’m really trying, and thank you for your suggestions. To me, it’s as if Daniel thinks that pointing a lens and a camera at something and squeezing the button is sufficient to ‘capture’ it ..but I’m trying hard to find something here to hold my attention, like a theme or a “hook” in Miles’ music. I just don’t see the artistry here in the pictures to match his evocative writing, and so I find a jarring mis-match. Rocky, misty ground, clouds and mountains, and a man with a beard. But perhaps people don’t see much in my pictures. In response to Larry, below, I think that Ansel put a little more thought into his compositions – and printing – and that’s why they have their impact.

    I DO like Daniel’s wide-angle “action” shots, the seized moments, in his “Afghanistan with a Leica MP & Film” (see the link above, just below these photos). But the people, or scenes, static, with no special moment? No, sorry.

    Thanks for your comments and ideas, though, Michiel, and you’ve certainly made me try yet again to get into these images.

    People do seem to like them, so I’ll just go away and not spoil the party.

    Perhaps I’m too old: maybe if I were still seventeen I’d say “Wow!”

    But I think Daniel’s writing is great.

  4. Those are really interesting photos that convey a certain mood of the place. I like the black and white look for a change. For those of you wondering what it looks like in colour, here are some uninspired fall travel snaps taken by me while on vacation:

    I used a Leica 24mm – 60mm zoom lens (because that is what came with my Panasonic LX-3 pocket camera, ha, ha!).

  5. Thanks guys! All these were taken with the Monochrom. It is a stunningly beautiful part of the world, especially Tombstone Territorial park. Definitely recommend anyone who enjoys the outdoors to try the journey. The drive along the top of the world highway is breathtaking, its about 14 hours from Fairbanks to Dawson city, Canada. For those wishing for color I only brought two cameras, it was a long trip. The other one I had loaded with Kodak Aerochrome film and that series can be seen here:
    It probably won’t satisfy those who wanted to see the actual colors of the landscapes, but you can always go yourself its much much much better in person anyway 😉

    Thanks again!

  6. Seems odd to me. Do you suppose that Ansel Adams had to answer that question all the time too: Why can’t we see them in color? I personally like b&w and color, so I have no trouble with either one. I’ve seen 2 or 3 photography books on Venice that were only shot in b&w, and I was won over to the idea that color is not necessary. If not necessary to the city with the most beautiful color, then why not anywhere else as well. In fact, I discovered that I like the b&w photos of Venice better than the color ones. That has to apply to landscape as well. Don’t get me wrong: I like color landscape and cityscapes too. Just don’t understand why one person needs to do both. Okay, I do both!

    • Why do people always try to press their on views on what the photographers vision should be. We see things differently, so why not just appreciate someone else’s view,,,doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It’s ironic really, that people’s opinion can be so B&W, wanting others to not shoot B&W! This is meant to be an open forum, so read and enjoy. The diversity of cultures and environments is what makes this world such an amazing place, and we all reasonate with different elements within these environments.

  7. I understand why they’re in B&W, but would have liked to see them in colour. Desaturate and lower contrast a bit to reflect the impressive and gloomy majesty of these landscapes. How would they have turned out?

  8. Very nice photos but I would have loved to see them in the colour described by your prose.

    Best regards

  9. “..Trees of fiery orange and red fall colors . . . the flora transforms into an arctic tundra . . . the Aurora gently dances . . . stretching across the night sky like a string..”

    Why didn’t you show us? ..And in all their colours..? Why use an M Monochrom, and then just tell us in words what the pictures don’t show? Surely the idea of photography is that the pictures should tell us about it, no?

      • Let’s say I’ve been to hear some marvellous music, full of wonderful melodies and harmonies: it may have been played on just a guitar, or maybe by a whole orchestra. Can I convey to you the glory of it all by simply tapping out the rhythm on a drum?

        Let’s say I’ve seen a wonderful sunset and I want to paint it for you to share it with you. Should I paint it just with black paint on white paper? That may convey the tones of light and shade – if I’m good at painting, and at thinning down the paint to get just the right shades of light and dark – but will that convey the reds, greens, yellows, oranges?

        Say I’ve just heard a beautiful piano sonata, or concerto, or some other recital. Can I convey the exquisite tonality to you by playing it on a honky-tonk keyboard with half its keys missing?

        So I’m asking Daniel, why he would use a black-and-white camera when he was obviously moved by the colours and textures and the sun. (And, incidentally, why hide the exquisite tonal rendering of the MM within the HDR-like blacks and undifferentiated whites which we see here?)

        It’s like using a hammer to insert a screw, or offering a meal of burnt scraps while describing a banquet of melon, quails’ eggs, salmon, lemon juice, parmesan, ravioli, sorbet and calvados.

        Why, Daniel, why?

        • David, I hazard the guess that you’re familiar with the music of Miles Davis. Towards the end of his career he played less and less notes, leaving out more than he left in. I found that intriguing, and full of meaning.

          The musicians he performed with played a large role in that of course; they often had little to go on to know he wanted them to play.

          Fascinating stuff. Less is more, and in photography I find that intriguing as well, and very difficult to achieve. I think Daniel succeeded quite well although, as I said before, I would have liked to see these in bleak colours too.

    • Maybe the shots had no color interest. Speaking as an avid hiker, Unless you are out early morning and evening the lighting is usually pretty washed out with a lack of color. That is why a lot of my shots are converted to black and white, at mid day when there is no color interest I try to seek other interesting aspects that usually are better suited as black and white. Just rambling…. Beautiful area.. I wish I was there.

    • There is nothing worse than when someone tells the artist they should have done it differently. With all respect, STFU.

  10. Very colourful description, but black and white photographs only ? How to see all the mottled landscapes ?

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