I thought it was a joke or, perhaps, the mother of all typos. The weather forecast called for scattered showers in the morning, with an expected high of 50 degrees and a low of 8. It was not a mistake. It was the actual forecast for January 6, the first Monday of 2014 in New York City. A 42-degree temperature plunge in a single day dropped even further on Tuesday, to 5 degrees. On Wednesday the temperature climbed out of the single digits and was expected to rise to a balmy 25.
I’ve never been one to shy away from cold weather. However, in this case, I waited until Wednesday morning to head to Central Park and see the aftermath of the flash freeze.
In frigid conditions, I usually wear two pairs of gloves—one thick, battery-powered heated pair and a much thinner, liner pair underneath. I remove the outer gloves when I’m ready to shoot and take advantage of the liner’s rubber grips to easily operate the camera. Since I was so close to home, I decided to forego the extra bulk and just stuff a couple of heat packs into my liner gloves. Whenever my hands got cold, I would just make a fist around the packs to warm them up. I made a lot of fists that morning.
As I fully expected, The Lake in the Hernshead area was frozen solid. I shot a series of photos of the sun rising above the lake. A graduated neutral density filter helped to balance the exposure between the sky and the water, but it really wasn’t necessary for most of the shots. Since the water was completely frozen, it was much more reflective than usual—considerably minimizing its tonal difference to the sky.
My camera died three times during this shoot. Although I was using fresh batteries, the biting cold was repeatedly zapping their strength. Again, being so close to home encouraged me to cut corners I wouldn’t usually cut. Normally, I carry a backup set of batteries in a warm pocket. If (or when) the batteries in my camera die of shock, I simply swap them out with the warm ones in my pocket. That day, I only had the batteries in the camera and had to keep taking them out to bring them back to life with the warmth from the heat packs in my gloves. It worked, but it was much more time-consuming.
The weather wasn’t the only thing going through a major transition. The photo accompanying this article marks the end of an era for me. It was the very last photo I shot with a film camera. After more than 20 years of service, I finally said goodbye to my trusty Nikon F4. I now shoot with a Nikon D800. It’s helped me to create many new and interesting photos, and hopefully, just as many interesting stories to go along with them.
F.M. Kearney is a fine-art nature photographer, specializing in unique floral and landscape images. To see more of his work, please visit www.starlitecollection.com.