Monday, February 24, 2014

A Cold Winter Photo Vacation is Best

Winter.  Thoughts of photographing palm trees, beaches, or bikini clad models.  Any excuse to get out of the frozen tundra of the northern states in January and February will do - especially given the vortex crazed climate this year.  It's clear that Sports Illustrated has even given up worrying about whether both pieces of their models' bikinis arrived on time for the shoot this year just to make sure they weren't trapped in the cold, waiting for a delivery from some snarky designer...

Back on topic, I think a winter photo shoot is a better choice than some tropical getaway.  And it's not because I'm jealous of my friends who went to Hawaii, Costa Rica, or Bora Bora and missed some of the coldest, snowiest weather I've seen since my childhood in Cleveland. There are actual benefits to going somewhere cold to shoot.  And I mean cold - not 32F at night reaching 50F the next day.  I mean minus 32F as you stop at the entry to ... Yellowstone. On a snowmobile.  Ready to add your own personal windchill of whatever speed you crank that snowmobile up to.  (no more than 35 mph in the park, Mr. Ranger, I swear...)

At the end of January I had the pleasure of joining Barb and John Gerlach for a snowmobile based photo tour of Yellowstone.  Since there is a limit on the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park each day and all snowmobiles have to be with a guide, it's much less crowded in the winter than the when the hordes of unguided, minivan transported, wildlife harassing plodders descend on the park in the warm weather. Advantage number one.  The wildlife also has to hang around the lower elevations to find food, which of course is the elevation where the snowmobile trails are located, so it is plentiful. Advantage number two.  Because the animals are close to the trails, you don't need a 1200 mm lens costing as much as your house to photograph them. Advantage number three.  The animal coats are full and lush unlike the spring and summer when they shed and look like they've contracted some horrendous disease.  Advantage number four.  The park itself is coated in about 5 feet of snow, which covers up a lot of ground which in the summer is covered with ugly drought browned grass. If it's cold enough, there can be fog and hoar frost coated trees and animals.  The animals often hang out near the thermal areas, which can give the animals an extra frosty look and make the thermal areas more interesting because of the presence of the animals. Advantage number five. Another plus to a winter shoot is that most photographers hibernate in the winter so if you have any winter images you will have something special. Advantage number six.

But the biggest advantage to a real winter photo trip is that pretty much no matter where you live the weather back home will be milder.  After the minus 30 F morning I had in Yellowstone, I was just about ready for shorts and a tshirt when I got back to Toledo at a balmy 19 F.  That's a 49 degree swing in the right direction.  Not like when you go tropical and drop from 85 to 19F and swing 66 degrees the wrong way!

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