Sunday, December 31, 2006

What will 2007 bring in terms of swimming in the river?

Flashback. Splendid flashback.
PostScript: Assignment -- whatever's happening It was reasonably warm and there was no ice on the Monongahela River as more than 100 members of the Polar Bear Club prepared for their annual plunge into the water.

I had thought of doing it for a while.

I've been taking photographs for the Post-Gazette for 25 years. I'm not getting any younger.

So when I got up that morning, I just put on the trunks and a tank top, with my work clothes over. I took an old pair of shoes. I told myself, 'There's always a chance I can chicken out of it.'

But when covering such a predictable event, you need to do something a little different.

I had prepared one of my cameras in case. The underwater camera that we have is a film camera, but it's much easier with the motor drive digital camera. I put it on autofocus and placed the camera in an extra large freezer bag with tape around the lens.

As I stood on the bank, I took some ribbing from fellow news photographers, but my mind was made up. I decided I'd go in five minutes before the group took its leap, so I could get their expressions as they hit the water.

It was not what I'd expected. The water was 38 degrees.

I could not breathe. I felt like there was a ton of bricks on my chest. I could not get enough air in my lungs. I was having trouble.

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