A Cold Morning In The Steel City For anyone who lives in the northeastern United States, they've become quite accustomed to the yearly "Polar Vortex" over the past few years. The Polar Vortex a period of time lasting anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks where arctic air from northern Canada drops down in to the US, and brings brutally cold wind chills to those in the US (for you Canucks, I'm sure you're used to it, but you're just gluttons for punishment IMO). For the past week, the meteorologists had been warning us about the weather that would roll through this Valentine's Day weekend, brining highs that wouldn't make it out of the single digits, and wind chills in the negative teens. While many would heed the warning to stay indoors where it's warm, I was deranged and thought this would be a great time to get some pictures of the city that I've been wanting to capture, but are somewhat difficult to come by: images with the city's rivers frozen. The rivers typically freeze every year, but with our increasingly mild winters, the frozen water doesn't last long. I figured this would be my best chance for this to happen. Friday night, just as the meteorologists predicted, the temperatures started to plummet. Temperatures over night fell in to the single digits, and I packed my messenger bag, a Lowepro Event Messenger 150, with one of my GH4's, my 12-35 f/2.8, my 7-14 f/4, and my Haida 10-stop ND and variable ND filters. I had to drop my wife off in the city the following morning for a couple hours of work, so I figured I would go exploring for a bit while she worked. Saturday morning I dropped her off, and headed over to the north shore of the city to see if I could get the shots I wanted. It was too late get any sunrise shots, but the sky was a beautiful hue of blue, and there were some nice clouds that made for a great sky. Once over on the north shore, I was driving along the river and saw an interesting statue that was facing the city. To make the scene even more impressive, the sun was just getting ready to crest the city skyline so the lighting was pretty great. I pulled a quick u-turn, parked my car, grabbed my camera and tripod and headed over to get the shot. The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial by Ian Menego, on Flickr It turns out the memorial is in memory of the fallen police officers in the city. The shot was taken with my GH4, 12-35 with the Haida 10-stop ND + variable ND filter. A 25 second exposure at f/8 shooting directly in to the sun. That is a LOT of neutral density. Being right on the river, I could see that unfortunately the water hadn't frozen yet, but I still had hope. Saturday night was supposed to be the worst of weather, with brutal ambient and wind chills over night. I figured this would be my best shot at getting the images I wanted, so once back home I packed my gear so it was ready to go the next morning. So, Sunday morning, 6:00AM, and while most people are sleeping in, my alarm clock is going off. I get up, throw on multiple layers of clothes, grab my hat, gloves, scarf, hand & toe warmers, and I'm out the door by 6:20. A short 15 minute drive down to my first spot, right along the river where I was the previous day. I see another car park, and it turns out it's two other photographers wanting to shoot the morning sunrise over the city as well (what better way to spend Valentine's Day morning than freezing your *** off taking pictures?). Much to my joy, it happened: The extreme temperatures over night caused the surface of the rivers to freeze. So I get my camera/tripod all set up, and start shooting. I loved the color of the sky, despite a cloudless and rather boring backdrop. And the reflection of the building and lights in the water/ice was just as I imagined. Frozen River Sunrise II by Ian Menego, on Flickr GH4, 12-35 with Haida 10-stop ND on my Desmond CF tripod. ISO 100, 50 second exposure at f/8. While viewing the scene, I remembered that I've always been a fan of people's land/cityscape images where they include themselves in the frame. So I set up the 10 second timer, switched lenses over to my PL15 (I was trying to get some great starbursts with the city lights, but it didn't work out. I still think it's a great image regardless), pressed the shutter and ran over to get in position. Self Portrait by Ian Menego, on Flickr GH4, PL15 at 1/25s and f/5.6 I had taken all the images I wanted to at this spot, and so I continued on along the river until I got to my next spot I wanted to shoot. I discovered this spot back in November where I managed to capture one of my favorite sunrise images. I thought it would be a great spot to capture some more of the city while incorporating the bridges and frozen river all together. North Shore Dock Frozen by Ian Menego, on Flickr This image was a composite of 5 images stitched together. Taken with my GH4 & 12-35. I love this spot because of the dock moorings, bridges, and color of the buildings in the city. After grabbing this shot, I hurried back to my car (I was quite cold by this point) and drove to the final spot I wanted to visit: Point State Park. Point State Park is a park in the heart of Pittsburgh where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio. I wanted to get a shot facing the north shore (where I just was) so I could capture the morning sun falling on PNC Park and Heinz field. Fort Duquesne Bridge Sunrise by Ian Menego, on Flickr Another panoramic stitch with my GH4 & 12-35. I love being centered under the bridge, and having PNC Park off to my right, with Heinz Field off to my left, accompanied by their reflections in the partially frozen water. Below images of each stadium. Frozen PNC Park by Ian Menego, on Flickr Frozen Heinz Field by Ian Menego, on Flickr From here, my body and I had had enough. By the time I got back to my car, it was 8:10 AM and I had been outside for nearly and hour and a half (not consecutively, as I needed breaks from the temperature, plus I needed to drive from spot to spot). My fingers and toes were nearly frozen stiff (the hand/toe warmers don't work well in weather near 0*F), I had captured the shots I wanted, and the golden hour light was nearly gone. While it was a cold and somewhat painful endeavor, I'm glad I spent both days up early and out in the cold. I love the quiet and soothing ambiance of an early morning in the city, before the sun rises and the normal hustle and bustle begins. I'm also glad I managed to get some great shots of the city with it's frozen rivers. The weather is supposed to warm up starting tomorrow, and we're supposed to get rain later this week. It's likely the last time the rivers will be frozen for 2016, and so I'll have to wait again until 2017 to get my next set of images of the city with its frozen water.