We tend to come up with new, slick names for stuff all the time now, given our buzzword laced world. The phrase “Polar Vortex” got a lot of play lately when a chunk of really cold air that should’ve behaved better and hovered nicely over the North Pole pushed south in unruly fashion over Canada and the US. I’ve encountered the polar vortex before on assignment, but wasn’t smart enough to call it by its proper name. I think I just used the term, “f*%#ing cold.”
I mean, that descriptor wouldn’t cut it on the nightly news of course. But when you have to listen to the sound of the motor drive to know your camera is firing because you’ve lost all sensation in your fingers and can’t actually tell if you are in fact pushing the shutter button, and icicles on your eyelashes are obscuring your vision, but you realize that’s the least of the problem ’cause your glasses are a sheet of ice and you can’t see anything anyway, and numbness has taken your toes, your ankles, your knees from you and you are praying that sensation doesn’t continue north and hit your testicles, well, something more colorful than “polar vortex” is called for, don’t you think?
During the PV, there were lots of pictures of a frozen Niagara Falls, and speculation that the thing had turned entirely solid. Not true, according to authorities. There’s always water moving underneath there somewhere. I can attest to this, as I went to Niagara once, during extreme cold, on an assignment for Nat Geo called the power of light. I had this lunatic notion that when they play the night lights on the falls, with all the mist in the air, I could photograph….a rainbow at night!
Now, my editor at NGS is the gullible sort, and I’ve sold him the photographic equivalent of swamp land in Florida numerous times over the years, so he let me go. Which led to me climbing down a series of ice strewn staircases to a vantage point where I actually did see a rainbow. And I produced a photo Nat Geo did not publish.
I’m kidding about Bill, my editor at Nat Geo. He is my dear friend, and very smart, and knows how to handle a looney tune of a photog who is so gobsmacked by the idea of the photo they are in pursuit of that they show up in his office speaking in tongues. While he has in fact kept the faith and said yes to numerous harebrained photo schemes of mine over time, he has also had the good sense to chuckle, roll his eyes and say, “No,” when it is required. And when Bill says no, he says so with great finality. It’s the equivalent of an editorial anchor being dropped on the heaving bosom of my fevered photographic ambitions.
But, considering it was a short hop to upper New York, and perhaps in the hope I might slip on those steps, tumble into the polar vortex and he wouldn’t ever hear from me again, he let me go and find a rainbow.