It’s just after midnight and I’m standing behind my red Saturn Vue. The snow is blowing, it’s bitter, bitter cold and a snow plow is charging down Wanaque Avenue in Pompton Lakes. There’s my shot. But just as I aim my camera, a line of traffic comes along and spoils my close-up. It may be a blizzard but nothing stops the denizens of the nearby thatched roof tavern from their appointed rounds. Or going home from them, which is worse.
Earlier in the day, I got my first assignment from the photo editor of the media group that owns the newspaper for which I work freelance. I’ve been assigned the night shift – 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. That means night-time photography, never my forte. Yet somehow I have to make it work. I have to somehow channel my Inner Holly (a former co-worker who could do wonders with any camera she was handed).
I’m just about to get to New Year’s Eve blog to finish it up when I get a call from Mom: she’s sprained her wrist and I have to go over to her house to wash her dishes and do a few other chores. So much for finishing my New Year’s Eve blog. Now it’ll be four days late. But once I’m out, I can drive over to the newspaper and see if they’ll give me some sort of press pass so I don’t get into trouble, and then I can begin taking some snow prep shots.
The newspaper really should have contacted me a month ago. They’d taken on other photographers in that month’s time but kept me dangling. If I could have shown the newspaper editor my photos he wouldn’t have any doubts about my ability as a photog.
He says they’ll have my interim press pass next week. He doesn’t know what else he can offer so I ask him for one of his business cards. What he wants from me are artsy night photos. If I can take those kinds of photos he’ll use them. Also, any sort of photos of people preparing for the storm.
At this point, it looks like the storm is only going to sideswipe our area. The blizzard is predicted for Long Island. My first stop is the local school bus company. I know them; my mother worked for them for many years as a driver. I ask if I can take photos of the buses the next morning. At that point, I’ll be a half-hour past deadline, so they’ll be my last pictures.
Meanwhile, I go up to the local Home Depot to get pictures of last-minute shoppers, commuters on their way home from work. I get some shots of them. But the money shot is a salt-spreader going up and down the aisles. Thank goodness for my telezoom lens and my new Canon EOS 60D camera, which is super speedy. I got it at a bargain on the day after Christmas, body only.
Now I have two camera bodies and don’t have to switch lenses as often. Brother B got me a new, larger camera bag, and my buddy bought me a photographer’s belt, the latest thing in mobility for photos on the go.
Next headed down the highway to the Riverdale DPW and got some twilight photos of the big rigs that would be sanding the big highways – Routes 23 and 287. Really cool. Then I went down to the Pompton Lakes DPW. I took a photo of a DPW worker gassing up his vehicle. Ultimately unused, but still a good shot.
I was close to home. I went home and had some dinner and brooded. I was tired and didn’t look forward to going out into the cold, snowy night. I worried too about the night shots. Would they come out? They would have to be village shots where there was at least some light source. I was totally frozen from my first venture. I didn’t want to go out yet, and my conscience gave me some reprieve. Midnight would be better because there’d be more snow and less traffic. I could stand in the middle of The Boulevard if I wanted and wouldn’t have to worry too much about getting run over.
As it go on to about 11:30 Thursday night, I bundled myself up. Grabbing my camera, I went outside to see how well my camera would take to take night shots. Yes! It worked. I’d be able to get my shots. My first stop was Wanaque Avenue, the business district of Pompton Lakes, and now we come back to where the blog began.
I missed the snow plow. Well, I got him but it wasn’t what I wanted and certainly not what the editor would want. The traffic on my side street flew by and once they were gone I looked back down the street. There was my shot approaching: a late-night N.J. Transit bus on its last round, Pompton Lakes all aglow in street lights and lit-up shop windows, and the snow flying.
I snapped a couple of shots by which time the bus was stopped in front of me. Quickly, I got into my car and drove off. Next stop: Pompton Plains. Pompton Plains was more deserted, which meant no central subject for a shot. As I predicted, I was able to stand right in the middle of The Boulevard (the town’s main thoroughfare) and get a pretty, if deserted shot of the snow-covered business district.
Across the street, a man was shoveling the sidewalk for his friends. I took some photos of him and a quote, also unused. Then I drove down the street for some shots of the town municipal building and the town’s towering church steeple. Both glowing shots, but I suspected the bus shot on Wanaque Avenue was going to be the chosen one.
The time was well past midnight. My feet were freezing off and I had plans to get up at 5, have some breakfast and take some more photos around 6 a.m. while it was still dark enough. I was doggoned if I was going to stay up all night.
Right on time, I headed first for my mother’s neighborhood where I’d grown up. Her development was built on a steep hill. We used to have regular mudslides back in the rainy Sixties. Knolls Road was paved along the side of the hill. The grade was so steep that no houses could really be built on that side of the road. Instead, the road hugs the cliff side, making several sharp turns with a drop-off almost worthy of California’s Pacific Palisades. This site, however, afforded a beautiful overlook of the town below.
I kept my car running. I thought it was cold the night before. My thermometer read zero degrees and the Bloomingdale bank sign read 2 degrees. I was worried whether I could even make it up the least daunting of the hills. Fortunately, the roads were plowed. Driving down Rafkind Road I took some requested photos of people shoveling or snow plowing their driveways.
Next stop was the bus yard. I got some really great shots of the snow-covered buses. Alas, they also were not used. The editor said three, and I knew he meant it, which was okay. It was just a matter of which three? Up until then, I’d left my car running. This time I shut the car off. When I got back in, it wouldn’t start up. It sounded like the battery was dead. I wailed to the bus yard mechanics for help. But then I got back in and this time it started. I was able to drive away from the humiliation.
The time was running away. It was 7:30. The orders were 7 a.m. and I knew from working for them previously that Friday morning was the deadline for the Sunday issue. I took some quick photos of Main Street, Bloomingdale. By now, the sun had come up and I couldn’t feel my feet any longer.
I was hoping to take some shots of kids sledding later. But my orders were strict. 7 a.m. was it. I got home, quickly formatted the photos and sent them on. From the e-mails, apparently they were pleased.
Twelve years later, I still had the right photography stuff.