When I heard about the Whitefish Winter Carnival, I knew that I needed to plan my trip to Montana so I could be there for the infamous Penguin Plunge. About 100 participants were jumping into a hole cut through ice in Whitefish Lake for a Special Olympics fundraiser.
The morning of the plunge brought clear blue skies, which helped my photos have a sense of place because the slopes of Whitefish Mountain were visually dramatic in the background. As the participants lined up I decided to focus on their reaction to the cold as they rushed out of the water after jumping in the lake.
The exposure of the scene proved to be a little tricky because there was a line of photographers and safety officials standing next to me, casting shadows on the water and potentially on the swimmers as they left the water. Photo tip: If I chose an automatic exposure setting there was a chance that the meter would be tricked into overexposing the scene by the shadows. Instead I set my camera’s meter to manual, choosing an exposure based on the sunlit part of the scene. I used a 35mm moderate wide angle lens that still made the background elements fairly dominant in the scene. Then all I had to do was wait for the right moment like this (above), where one swimmer is joyfully oblivious to the cold and another looks like she can’t get out of the lake fast enough.