Splashin’ The New Year

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This January 1, I did what everyone should do: I stood in the icy Atlantic Ocean while hundreds of people rushed towards me in their bathing suits.

For the fifth straight year, I had the opportunity to photograph, for the Sons of Ireland , their annual Polar Bear Plunge in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I find it hard to believe it’s been five years now that I’ve been involved with the good Sons and Christine Burke, their PR chief. It was back in late 2008 that I was looking for something interesting to shoot, and I found Christine and the Sons of Ireland.

So, January 1, 2009, there I was.

January 1, 2014, there I was again, still trying to get my camera in a new place and some cool shots of the event.

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I always approach this not from just an “event photography” perspective, but from a photojournalistic one as well. I want to cover the whole shebang, from the charities that are represented, to the Sons of Ireland themselves, to the interesting people that decide to drag themselves out of bed on New Years Day and go jump in the ocean. I want to go from entire to detail, and tell the whole story.

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As the event has grown, so have the characters that come down to join the fun. This Canadian (at least I assume he is) was the first in the water. And I had him lined up all the way.

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Then there was the guy dressed up like a New Jersey Garden State Parkway toll booth box. This type of a costume was a first at this Plunge event.

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What I love about shooting this event every year is that, while I only see the guys from the Sons of Ireland and Christine once a year, we always just pick up where we left off. Handshakes and hugs all around to start, a beer at the end. Our paths go a circuitous route for a whole year, but we always come back to Asbury Park on January 1.

Even some of the regular people who do the Plunge recognize, and remember, me. Lots of hugs and “Hey, how you been? Nice to see you again!” I say hello to George, the sound guy (music is amplified over the beach as the Plungers are getting ready, not to mention the bagpipers that lead the group to water’s edge.) And I say hello to the local media that cover the event. They still shake their head at me, the guy in the water.

And the Plunge wouldn’t be complete without the WRAT Radio DJ Gotts making an appearance. It’s always good to see him again, and he always gives me some good looks in front of my lens.

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Much thanks to Tom Berg of Tom Berg Photography for sending me this BTS shot of me and Gotts after that last shot.

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With this type of situation, especially with the initial charge, there’s a bit of “spray-and-pray”. I just fire the shutter and see what I get later. After the surge, though, it calms down and I can pick out people I want to shoot. I look for great expressions to really capture what it’s like to run into the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean on January 1. This is one of my favorite shots of the whole day. I think it captures the shock, excitement, and fun of the whole day.

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I think I got some good shots that the Sons of Ireland will enjoy. Another win this year was how dry I stayed. I’m generally the one photographer the furthest out in the ocean; most just stand on the shore, some venture in a little. For me to get the shots I want, I want to be back far enough that I get the splash and the expressions head-on, not from the side. I’ve never donned a wet suit (always seemed like to much work to get in and out of) so I’ve always gotten somewhat wet – water gets in my knee-high boots, or my waterproof pants split down the inseam, like last year.

This year, though, I pulled on Hogman chest waders and they worked great. I stayed dry as a bone and my feet didn’t get cold. I could have stayed out in the water till the last plunger came in. And, the last couple of years I’ve worn a great jacket from North Face. It comes below my waist, is warm no matter the weather, and pretty waterproof as well. It was also a calmer ocean this year, without a lot of waves, so that worked well too!

I shot with my Canon 50D which, while not waterproof, is weatherproof and that continued to work well also. I also used my Canon 17-85mm lens, instead of my everyday 24-105mm. This was for two reasons: First, I recently dug the 17-85mm lens out of my bag again, and kinda fell back in love with it. I haven’t used it in a really long time and really like the color it’s giving me. Plus, I wanted more of a wide angle. Also, hey, I’m in the water. I could fall over, really get splashed, whatever. I didn’t want to take the chance of ruining my L-series lens. I kind of keep tempting fate, I guess, with no waterproof housing and whatnot, but so far so good.

As usual, I’ll put together a little video for the Sons of Ireland, a compilation of the day’s events. Once done, I’ll post that here too.

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All in all, it was another great way to splash in the New Year.

© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2014

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3 thoughts on “Splashin’ The New Year

  1. You documented the event well Mark. I’m sorry I missed it (had been there the last 2 years). Asbury is always a great location to capture uninhibited people doing unconventional things. This day is no exception. I especially like the last to images, love the B+W!

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