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Jeffrey Byrnes Photographer Fashion + Portraits + Travel

New England: Winter Photographs

January and February in New England see the most amount of snow fall. As I write this post I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of a "blizzard," scheduled to land in less than 24 hrs. This past Saturday we woke up to a coat of snow the covered the ice that formed throughout the previous week. I am not one for early mornings on weekends. However, I found myself wide awake by 6:30 am, well before any amount of snowy cloud-diffused light could illuminate the accumulating snow. 

It took me all of about 10 minutes to decide to go out and shoot. I checked the light a few times while dressing and prepping my camera bag. I was satisfied with what I was seeing and knew what I would be able to capture. For the last several years one of my longest projects has been photographing the urban landscape in our town. I will not dive into the motivating details at this moment. I left the house with the intent of making it downtown and leaving it to intuition to make photographs. While there are a few places I have visited during snow storms, I wanted to avoid them and focus on some new images. 

I did however visit one specific location that I tend to use as a location for shoots. I made a few photos treking through the snow. Even though I have been visited this location in the snow many times, I aways find something new. I want to preface the following by hopefully giving your imagination and memory a run for its memory. If you are not from New England or did not spend any time in the winters in New England, on the slopes skiing or ridding during the winters, then you will not be able to understand this quite as well as a native will. New Englanders, you know that moment when you play in the snow till everything hurts? You are so cold your body is in pain, you may have a slight headache, but you do not want to go in because you are having so much fun? That is exactly what my morning was like. I was outside, making photos, enjoying the falling snow. My hand, cold, firmly molded to the grip of my camera, was slightly red from the snow falling. I wear gloves while shooting when I know I will be outside for more than a few minutes at a time. Having been navigating around the empty streets via 4x4, I wasn't worried about gloves. 

As I began walking down the snow covered walkway of the park I periodically stopped to make photos. I wanted to make my way to the far end of the park and see the recently cut open view of the river. I managed to find a patch of ice covered with snow. I began to break dance, moving in ways I did not know I could move. I tried 2-3 times to gain my balance. Like an ill attempted back flip, my feet came out from under me and I went backwards. I hit the ground with enough force to knock my hat off. I did not drop the camera from my hands until I realized I was horizontal, catching snow flakes on my tongue that was now hanging out of my mouth and my eyes that were wide open in shock. It took me a few seconds to asses my situation and come to the conclusion that I was not injured. I grabbed my head to make sure I was not bleeding. Once I realized I had not bashed my head on the ice I placed the camera in the snow for a second so I could rotate and get up. 

That was the hardest part. Trying to get up was a bit of a challenge. I had fallen with such force that I could already feel a sharp pain in my shoulders, neck, upper back. With a low groan I moved to my side. The soft snow was comforting, but the pain was increasing and I wanted to get up and regain my partially murdered consciousness. My upper body was stiff, my camera wet, my ego shattered. I had a similar fall in 2009 when I was in Boston studying at the Art Institute of Boston. I was walking through the Boston Common when I went to walk onto the ice of one of the ponds. I stepped over a short chain fence, at least I tried to. Some how as I was placing my leading leg over, the snow gave way from the opposite foot and I slipped forward. My legs became a tangled mess in the chains. I fell with force face down into the snow. The film body I was shooting with went down with even greater force right into the snow. The camera was fine, my legs cut up, my ego scarred. I stood up and bowed to Boston for hitting me hard. I had a mile walk back to the school to catch the shuttle back to my dorm. I was cold, wet, limping, and mentally writing the story down for a later point and time. 

Back to our snowy Saturday, 3 hours later I was on location in the snow to make some family photos of one of my clients. Loaded up with two bags and my Profoto light mounted to a stand, I went to step around the corner of the gate to enter the reservoir. I was lucky enough to find another hidden patch of ice. I slipped, once again losing my balance. This time I wasn't trying out for "Dancing With The Stars," I just fell fast and hard. I was also fortunate enough to cut my hand on a phantom object. It was the light, stand, or the bag, but it was a nice little scratch. They say chicks dig scars, not sure if the fiance digs them, but it was just another wound for some sympathy, as if I needed any more. By the time night fell I was in a bit of agony. I have had my share of bad ass shitters. I have a displaced knee cap from snowboarding. I've had 4 staples in the back of my head. I have bad ankles from skateboarding. I have had numerous falls from bikes. Numerous scars from the pedals of my bmx bike, as well as a few other injuries. But this icy, break dance themed fall was hard. What saved me from smacking my head like I was trying to head butt some jerk was that I twisted my body during the fall. I tend to do that when I fall.

In 2012 the fiance and I were ridding our bikes on the rail trail at the cape when she nearly fell off her bike. To avoid hitting her I swerved. I laid the bike down on its side and slid some 20', grinding a nice patch of skin of my right side, arm, back fat, and leg. She enjoyed my fall with a bout of laughter and fear. She noticed that I instinctively turned my head away from the pavement to avoid any concusing bashes. I have always had great balance. I was surprised that I had actually fallen as hard as I did on the ice. By Sunday morning, waking up was rough. I was in pain with spasms. As I write I am comfortably numb on the couch. Out of it all I got some great photos of the early morning coating of snow. Was it worth it to bust my ass so hard? But of course. The small price to pay for a photograph. The moral of the story, be careful, tred carefully, and always watch your footing when you're in compromising places. While I was on solid ground, I didn't evaluate the landscape or expect fresh smooth ice to want to cuddle. Enjoy the photographs below.