Bundle Up

December 17, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Icy GripIcy GripOn this early morning with temperatures hovering at more than 20 degrees below zero, fog is suspended over the Madison River and trees are coated with hoar frost. The first rays of sunlight touch the mountains beyond. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake
it is necessary to stand in the cold."

There is a magical transience to the winter landscape. The transformative powers of a fresh blanket of snow (or hoar frost created by freezing fog, or an ice storm, or heavy snow as it's falling) are considerable, yet fleeting. Otherwise ordinary locations can appear fantastically beautiful when decorated with snow and ice.

It's a terrific time of year to make unique photographs - as long as you're willing to deal with plummeting temperatures. 

Once upon a time I was most assuredly in the "unwilling" camp. I don't love the cold and am cold-sensitive. 

That was before I realized there's actually no 'bad' winter weather, only 'bad' clothing. (More accurately, bad clothing choices. Which I guess would be poor preparation.) Textile technologies, from the protection layer to the insulation layer, have come a long way. If you're dressed properly, it's possible to stay reasonably warm in very harsh conditions - even when standing around waiting for the light to change. 

A little GORE-TEX here, perhaps some Omni-Tech there, a base layer, good boots, hat and gloves, then toss in a few chemical heating pads for good measure  - and the world is your oyster!

The photo above was made in Yellowstone National Park just as the sun was coming up on an early February morning. It was -24 degrees Fahrenheit. You see a thick layer of fog hovering over the Madison River, which never freezes thanks to super-heated water from the park's geothermal features. As the clash of temperatures becomes more extreme, hydrothermally-created conditions - like this fog - become more spectacular. 

The colder the better. 

The mercury never made it north of zero degrees that day. (Most of the time it was in negative territory.) But I was out in the field from roughly 7am until 5:30pm.

I'm still cold-sensitive, but I shoot all season long. It's all about the clothing.

The winter months can yield excellent images. Don't go into hibernation. Grab that camera and get outside!


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