Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Plunge-Target Rich Environment

I love feeling alive, I love walking out in the cold in my bare feet and feeling the ice on my toes.- Tori Amos
Jeff-The Perennial Plunger
 "Target Rich Environment?"  What better location to be hanging around with a camera and long lens than a place where crazy people take off perfectly good warm clothes on a cold day and proceed to jump into freezing water for fun?  As a photographer, the one thing I love is catching expression-the expression on a face that lasts for a split second, that tells a story, that is unrehearsed. At the Polar Plunge, surely I'd be lucky enough to catch those moments of anticipation, anxiety, fear, breathlessness, exhilaration, shock and joy....(that the plunge is over).
I'd been here before, and love all of those emotions and expressions I'd have a chance to photograph.  It was great light today-sunny, not too cold and maybe a little larger crowd on hand than before.  I like to use a big zoom to flatten space out and narrow the depth of field and set the camera to a high frame rate.  Aperture is wide open and shutter speed through the roof-(Boring technical stuff).  At any rate, when I started editing photos afterwards, I was reminded of a shoot I did 30 plus years ago at my high school of a cross country steeple chase-runners had to jump into a pool of muddy water out on the course and that location offered the same frozen water in space and expressions as this day did.
It's been a while since I've have a more photography related post here, and it feels good to be shooting for the plain old joy of making some good pictures. Here are some of my favorites.

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Jeff lead off this post and this is my follow-up portrait.  Jeff is a Special Olympic athlete in Neillsville and the best pledge raiser in the city-he singlehandedly generates more money for the program than any other plunger and is a crowd favorite-never for a loss of showmanship or style.

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Daina is also a Special Olympic athlete-in fact, one of the very few snowboarders in the state and a gold medal winner.  She is a huge polar plunge fan and has maybe the best expression of anticipation before deciding to take the leap into the icy water.

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Cold?  Although plungers are only in the water for a brief moment, it is a shock and there always is but one thought-get out!  No one, I've noticed over the years, lingers in the water too long!  Ricky is a Special Olympic athlete as well and has been to several World Games as a cross country skier.

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The expression in Tim's eyes really attracted me to this photograph...I think they are saying "okay, this was all fun and all, but get me the heck outa here!"   Tim is the commander in chief on the polar plunge day of the Special Olympics group, which, by the way, raised over $3000 for the athletes!

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Centered Plunger
Maybe these folks plunging into icy water are a little off centered?  Not really, and this shot I really liked-the hair, the water and that da*m post, which was most troublesome all day while shooting.  This time it worked out and divided the image in half.  Not always sure why I like a picture, but this one works for me.

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Color, Hands and Face
Hands are so expressive, so I wanted to include them in this image....and they are surely topped off by her face as she sprints to the warming tent.

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The Girl Chef
I don't know what organization she represented, but she made me crack up when she walked up to the pool, dipped her fingers in the water and checked to see what the temperature was....tooo funny!  I love the split second here just as that same hand and now her feet are breaking the surface.

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Wall of Water
Sometimes two plungers will go in at a time...maybe safety in numbers?  Shared punishment?  In any case, timing is everything and sometimes they don't synchronise  things quite right.  Here, one plunger is already underwater, leaving a wall of water for the second to jump into.  I love the water droplets leaving their rings on the wall.

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Student and Tutor Taking the Plunge
Pretty standard plunge picture, if there is such a thing, but I wanted this here because it has two of my students in it.  Alyssa is a photography student and Shyanne is my K5 tutor, both just great ...and a few of my past students watching in the background, and....waiting their turn to hit the water.

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The Curvy Hair
A split second later, and Shyanne is about to submerge-the frozen splash and curvy hair, about to be dunked, was enough to make this a favorite.

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Alan in Team USA
Alan is a good friend and his children are just the best in my classes.  It is always refreshing to meet up with him-I know I'm gonna smile and laugh whenever we run into to each other.  He's new to plunging and put the question out there of what to wear.  I had some ski suits from sponsored teams and from Special Olympics-they are bright and flashy, so I offered them up for his plunge apparel.  They were a hit and he suggested they did help fight the cold, but I wonder about that after seeing this rather "refreshing" expression when he literally jumped out of the water!

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The Last Second
Blatant Rule of Thirds picture here...and maybe too blatant-another composition maybe would have been better, but that dang post was in the way again, and it was cropped out.  I  liked the rest of the image and her expression as the last thing dry was about to go under and be cold and soaked.

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Carol-"oh my gosh...OH my Gosh!"
The plunge helps local organizations raise money for their causes and groups-from Special Olympics as mentioned to breast cancer awareness.  Close friend Carol was plunging for a mission trip to Guatemala and for her Spanish class trip to....( it escapes me which Central American country).  Anyway, a little ribbing before the plunge was in order,  as she was a bit nervous about the whole thing.  In the end, she had style points going in and great expression coming out.  Well done.

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The "helping hand" was always present as jumpers clawed their way out of the water and always present, it seemed, in my photographs.  Oh tells part of the story I guess.  Jenn is like a God-child to me in some ways...I've watched her grow up into a wonderful young woman-so it distresses me to see her in such pain.  Not really.  ;) It may look like pain on her face, but the before and after images would show more shock and awe of the experience of hitting the water-the ski suit doing little to keep the freezing water at bay.  Her face was one of the best from the plunge day and I was so fortunate to photograph it and all the others who braved the waters for a great cause.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to do this Steve. Great pictures and commentary. These pictures help others see the event from different perspectives and for me to keep retelling it to those that couldn't be there. And I did get those suits washed and will be back to you tomorrow :)

  2. A COMMENT!!!!! AMn I just love when I get even one comment!