I spent the weekend in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks looking forward to some winter photography, but the weather did not really cooperate as I had hoped. Regardless of the forecast, I always stay committed to whatever plans I’ve made because you never know what can happen. Fortunately, I had one morning with good light and took advantage of whatever nature offered my way.
Though I do not tolerate cold temperatures very well, I love winter photography for the physical challenge, as well as the way it seems to transform the landscape visually. I’m fascinated with the colors and textures that the snow and ice create, and there’s also the stark and subdued feel that pervades the forest this time of year – I just can’t get enough of it.
Setting off in the dark to reach the summit of Pitchoff Mountain just east of Lake Placid before sunrise, I managed to stay warm as I climbed about 1200 feet in just over a mile and a half – believe me, that kept me warm for a while! Though the snow wasn’t too deep, it was hard packed, so I opted for my Kahtoola KTS steel crampons which were perfect, especially for the ice covered rocks at the summit. These are essential for winter hiking in snow and ice.
Boulders of all sizes provided lots of photographic possibilities, but I struggled for a while to find compositions that conveyed the way I felt. Ultimately your instincts take over, and I tried to react to both the changing light and my own sense of what I wanted capture at the moment.
Visual rhythm is always something I think about in an image – does the eye move in a pleasing and natural way from one point of interest to another. While many consider this the essence of composition, I like to think of it as the final element that completes an image. The points of interest are what matter most in my mind, as they create the emotion and feel of what it is the image is trying to convey. During the time I spent on this rocky summit, I felt rather out of place, as though I didn’t quite belong in such a harsh environment, and certainly it influenced my choices with the camera. It was certainly a beautiful moment, but I was happy to leave and head back down to relative safety.
I’ll be returning to the Adirondacks in a few weeks for more winter photography, so until then I’ll be working extra hard on my physical conditioning which always pays off when tackling steep mountains trails with a heavy backpack and very cold temperatures.