Cold smoke

By Jon Hillenbrand In Stories
This past January when the weather was extremely cold, I was asked to photograph a new sign on the outside of a cancer treatment building for advertising purposes.  I decided to wait until the sun was going down in order to have the best light to work with.  Shooting at or just after sunset can reveal a lot of pretty colors in buildings if you can get your exposure correct.
It was bitter cold out.  Bitter.  The light kept changing as the sun retreated and poked through openings in the clouds closer to the horizon.  From moment to moment, the building would be colorless and gray then side-lit with gold as the sun found an opening.  In the parking lot of the cancer center, while I was fighting to stay warm and keep my fingers from freezing, people were smoking in and between their cars.  Some were dressed in winter clothing, some with no coats at all.  It is strange to see people smoking in the parking lot of a cancer treatment center.  A woman walked up to me asking me what I was doing.  I told her that I worked for the hospital and she said that she had been a patient there for four years.  I looked around the parking lot and she confirmed what I was thinking about the smoking.  She said she found it to be insulting seeing the smokers, but on the flip side, everyone looked “done” as if they had just seen a ghost.  And I remembered that anyone leaving a hospital and smoking is someone who might just be having a really bad day.
The woman and I spoke for another few minutes despite the weather.  She said she felt a certain ownership over the building since she’d been going there so often for so long.  At that point, the sun was just about set and the golden light was illuminating the clouds from the smokers and from our breath and you couldn’t really tell the difference.

What do you think?