Unbeknownst to me, Rich took this photo during one of the rare occasions when I could raise my cold-stiffened limbs up in an attempt to make a photo; unbeknownst to Rich, I have stolen his portrait and made use of it on this post.
The weather report called for a mix of sun and clouds. What Rich and I actually saw during our afternoon photo ramble was mostly the latter—though that wasn't any particular problem. Overcast days, with their soft, shadowless light are often ideal for picture-making.
Nope, it wasn't the quality or quantity of available light that tested our mettle, but temperatures that refused to rise above the single digits and a below-zero wind-chill born in some Siberian vodka cellar.
I freely admit that more than once while I was out there in the frozen fields, shivering and shaking, teeth chattering, spine warping, I thought we were either admirably dedicated or afflictively idiotic. Why else would grown men willing endure wind-driven cold that instantly froze the blood and cut to your spine like a razor-sharp machete? What excuse could be offered for facing harsh cold that demanded multiple layers of protective clothing, and a bitter wind that quickly numbed every inch of exposed facial skin?
Even bundled up we suffered, and the stiff, heavy outerwear and gloves added their own difficulties to the task of working and setting camera controls.
However, Rich, who's not only a fellow-father-in-law (his son, my daughter) but lately a budding photographer, had recently acquired a brand new zoom lens he was now hot-to-trot to field test. Everyone knows that when a fellow buys such a techno-toy, there's no better time than the present to check things out. If you are a would-be nature photographer, that means shooting birds or beasts or whatever flora you can happen upon while lurching around yonder winter wasteland. Unless one was willing to admit to being a slave to his survival instincts, and thereby earning the label of "weather wuss," the rules say exacerbating factors so terrible a polar bear would have thought twice about being outside, must simply to be ignored.
Of course, once you're actually afield, there are a few time-proven counter-measures the expert can employ to help alleviate such misery. Vehement railing and the occasional recourse to vivid imprecations are both permitted and understandable. Not that speech of any sort is truly possible when your blood is only a heartbeat away from coagulation and your tongue is a pink ice cube rattling between your teeth. Still, the linguistically determined should be able to express himself through sudden gasps, involuntary shudders, and all manner of pitiful groans.
Moreover, any test session conducted under such conditions not only assesses equipment, but simultaneously discloses the testor's capacity for self-abuse. Later on, of course, during the inevitable post-session reviews, it also reveals that individual's prowess at spin-doctoring—whereby such harebrained ordeals are retold so they sound like another round of jolly-good manly fun.
Indeed, that evening, after Rich and I had, with the table manners of timber wolves, consumed a few thousand sorely missed calories (hey, the body burns a lot of energy making the BTUs to keep itself within sight of that 98.6˚F standard) we stood in front of a roaring hearthfire, warming certain still-numb nether quarters. The afternoon's adventure had been recounted in detail if not accuracy.
Myladylove, savvy to the nuances of good storytelling and its frequent departure with truth, and also aware first-hand of the weather we'd faced, asked—logically, if not particularly tactfully—were we men, morons, or masochists?
I quaffed another half-pint of wine, grinned smugly, and knowing we'd doubtless proven ourselves, announced proudly and with all confidence…
"Two out of three!"