One Should Not Flirt Hypothermia
Sunday, December 25, 2010
Winter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be tricky. With passages barricaded as the threat of snow becomes eminent, you have to time entry just right and then be prepared for what may be a slippery ride, especially if you happen to beat the salt trucks. Add to that the significant temperature drop of a sudden-onset Tennessee and North Carolina January wonderland and the necessity of preparedness becomes all the more apparent – one should not flirt hypothermia with the absence of a warm coat, boots and heavy gloves and one dare not taunt Old Man Winter by suggesting the South never sees real snow.
My opinion of drivers is pretty poor, but thankfully the confidence-breaking point of most comes in the form of frozen precipitation. Oddly, this makes such as Newfound Gap Road more passable and likely more safe than at any time during the warmer seasons. On this day the roads had already been tended several times, leaving a thin sheet of sandy ice over most of the driveable surface, obliterating any signs of lane markers and piling snow up to six feet to each side.
As I often mention, the possession of a camera does not a photographer make. Knowing one’s equipment and understanding its needs is as integral to making a decent shot as timing and selection of subject matter. Appreciation of this fact is crucial when circumstances can’t be repeated, as in photographing a wedding or in this case - a frosted forest. With the significant fluctuation between the cozy, enveloping warmth of my car and the frigid, penentrating iciness of the reality surrounding me, and recognizing the need for my equipment to acclimate, lest it fog up and freeze any chance of a shutter click, I opted to open the windows and unzip my camera bag.
Minutes later, I was perched “atop” a seven-foot mound of fluff, my tripod’s legs sunken significantly enough to provide a stable base, my feet buried at least a foot into the snow, my fingers quickly mimicking the frozen branches around me (despite the gloves) and a permasmile gracing my face.