Marshall County, Iowa USA by Larry Mendenhall

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The possibilities of this tree and fence line had been in my mind for a couple of years. The day I decided to drive out and photograph it was the first day of a brutal cold spell in the Midwest of the United States. A 40-50 mph wind and near zero air temperatures dropped the windchill to around -50 degrees.

My usual practice is to set up the tripod and take my time composing, but not that day. Thinking I would take a few quick images, I jumped out of the car without gloves. Within 30 seconds I jumped back in to thaw my hands out enough to hold the camera; the cold was affecting them that quickly.

With gloves on, I thought I’d be able to spend five or 10 minutes to try different compositions and wait for the light to change before turning into an icicle. But in less than a minute and despite being dressed in multiple layers, the cold made thinking slow and laborious and my hands were beginning to shake. Not wanting to become a snowman, I shivered my way back to the car.

I remember reading long ago that the ancient Norse people didn’t regard Hell as eternal fire, but rather eternal cold. As I drove back home – with the car pumping out as much heat as it could – I was thinking maybe the ancient Norse had it right.

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