Since high school I’ve loved taking photos, and over the years have fooled around with many cameras, had a darkroom in the cellar and still shoot with film sometimes. I wouldn’t call myself a serious amateur, because I’ve seen serious amateurs and they are far more serious than I – but enthusiast would be fair description.

So, I was thrilled when on my birthday, my wife handed me a gift certificate good for a day-long workshop with Adirondack photographer Carl Heilman II. You may not know his name, but you’ve seen his pictures. Heilman has been photographing the Adirondacks for 40 years in a way that only someone who embraces the outdoors can do, going wherever and whenever to capture the perfect image.

Yeah, you could learn a thing or two from a guy like that, so I signed up for his Winter Light photo tour scheduled for the middle of February. You may have noticed it’s been cold outside, so the weather was certain to be a challenge.

The first stop was at Buttermilk Falls near Long Lake. Our group took an easy trail to the icy shore where the water flowed despite temperatures hovering around zero.

We stopped at several spots that afternoon. Here on this bridge a woman in a fur paused in her Mercedes if ask if we were crazy, bundled head to toe as we scrambled around with our tripods. She may have had a point.

By 7pm we’d made our way to Saranac Lake with plenty of time to set up for the Winter Carnival fireworks. It was 12 below zero with a -28 wind chill but it didn’t seem bad until you’d peel off your mitten and screw around with your camera. Then it was cold – but that was forgotten when the fireworks ignited.

Overall, an amazing day. What did I learn? That after all these years I still need to work on my skills and knowledge, but that with patience – and proper layering – you can get great results.

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