Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Difficult Way

How many photographers go out in subzero temperatures to capture snowscapes? Not many. Cold-weather photography is extremely difficult: you must wear warm snow gear, which is heavy and bulky; you must trudge through mountains of snow while gasping burning lungfuls of frigid air; and you must be extremely careful not to touch your own camera equipment with bare hands, lest your skin stick to the freezing metal. How can you take pictures if you can't readily handle your cameras or lenses or tripod? It's an excruciatingly slow process, and you must wear several layers of gloves, stripping down to the thinnest (but never to bare skin) only briefly and only when absolutely necessary.

A decade ago, after a heavy snowfall, I decided to take an early morning hike through Shaw Arboretum, outside of St. Louis. Of course, I arose early to take advantage of the dawn light, but it was beastly cold--so frigid that I used chemical hand-warmers to try to keep my feet from freezing. Even the effort of moving around in the heavy snow was not enough to keep me warm, so I spent only a short time outside. But the light was so brilliant and the air so clear that the scenery was truly spectacular. If only I had had enough stamina and patience to capture it as it was!

Sometimes it seems that Nature reserves its most splendid sights for those who are able to overcome the most difficult obstacles. Think of high mountain scenery, undersea vistas, or even desert panoramas--all of these are not easily accessible, but the view makes the effort so worthwhile. I hope I remember this the next time I'm tempted to sleep through dawn or avoid that rugged path.

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