Okay, I’m going to admit this right up front. This is not a photography tip. The headline I wrote is totally meant to grab attention (hope it worked) 🙂 But I really wanted to write about this. I’ve seen this tip help (or how it could have helped) so many freakin’ photographers out there and I couldn’t think of any other title that people would actually read 🙂
The Back Story
This time of year, many photographers are packing up their stuff and heading to cold places to photograph, or for vacation, work, or all of the above in some combination. Now, if you already live in a cold place, then you probably know what type of gear, clothing, etc… to pack. But what if you don’t (like me).
A True Story
Years ago, I went on a photography trip out to Moab, Utah. I looked at the weather forecast and it showed that the lows would be somewhere in the 40’s. “Meh… no problem!” I thought. I live in Tampa, Florida where it doesn’t get in to the 40’s much (although it is as I write this). And when it does, everyone breaks out their winter coats, boots, scarves, gloves, snow shoes (maybe not the last one). But I travel enough that I’m in cooler weather often, not to mention I grew up in the northeast so I know what it’s like. Anyway, so when I saw 40’s I didn’t think much of it. 40’s ain’t bad at all.
What Did I Miss?
Some of you already know the ending to this story because you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, it was 40, but what about the wind”. Sadly I didn’t think of that. And I paid for it. We got out to some locations and there was a 10-20mph wind blowing. As I’m sure many of you know, 40 isn’t so bad. But 40 in high winds can get really cold really quick. So cold that all I wanted to do was get back in the car when I was supposed to be out there shooting. It wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was downright miserable. I couldn’t be creative and I couldn’t even think about shooting. And I was with a group and several people were the same way. You know who wasn’t? The people that had the right clothing.
Okay, So Why Am I Writing This?
So what’s the point here. The point is that I think there is a secret to getting the most out of your photography gear in the winter that a lot of people can miss. The right clothing. See, we spend so much money on our photo gear that it totally sucks to not want to use it at key times. And hey, maybe you’re tougher then me and you can stick it out, but I can tell you that you’re no where near as creative as you could be if you weren’t worrying about how damn cold you are.
Some Things To Think About When Packing
For starters I check the weather. If there’s any question on the weather, I pack my cold stuff. In fact, I overpack. I’ve brought my huge winter jacket, my gloves, thick socks, pants, shirts, etc… and never touched them on trips. On the flip side, I’ve brought them on trips where I never thought I’d touch them, and I was lending stuff to friends because they got so cold.
And if I’ve learned anything, you need windproof stuff. So much of what’s sold out there isn’t wind proof. A lot of people think they can throw a pair of sweat pants under a pair of jeans and they’re good. Nope. Neither of those are wind proof. They’ll keep you warm if the there’s no wind, but once that wind picks up, those layers aren’t gonna cut it and the wind will cut right through them.
If you live somewhere warm, but travel to colder places every once in a while it’s hard to spend the money to get good cold-weather gear. But I’m telling you now, it’s worth it. I was on a trip to Death Valley a while back and landed in Vegas. I stopped at REI with a friend because he needed to grab something. We were talking to a woman that worked there about where we were going, and she mentioned that it would be cold if we planned to be out there at night. I said, no sweat, I have this jacket, pants, etc… She looked at them and said “Oh, that’s cute”. What I had wasn’t wind proof and anyone that’s been out to Death Valley before knows it can get really windy. In the end I walked out of REI about $500 poorer. But I swear to you she was SO right. My clothes, which I tried to wear on the first day thinking I’d just return the other new stuff if I never used it, were nowhere near enough. In fact, one night we stayed out late to photograph stars. My toes got a little cold but the rest of my body was fine. I knew it was windy and I knew the temps were dropping but I never felt it. When I went for my water bottle in my bag, it was frozen. We got in to the car and it had dropped to 17 degrees. Other than my toes being a little cold, I was comfortable that whole night and actually able to be creative and concentrate on shooting.
Well, there’s my secret for the day. Buy warm gear. Pack warm gear. Overpack warm gear. I know it’s not really a secret so let’s call it a public service announcement instead 😉
I remember that trip! Enclosed is a photo of you before the REI trip. 🙂
LOL! I remember that outfit. Neil lent it to me. It may not look very stylish but boy was it warm 😉
One of my best purchases is a Columbia Titanium jacket. Wind proof with a silver inner lining that reflects body heat. It’s so lightweight it keeps me warm into the high 20’s and still packs tight enough to fit into the top of my f- stop bag so it’s always with me. I was just on Dante’s Peak in Death Valley at sunrise and was glad I had it with me.
Just wait until you go camping at minus 30, now that is what real cold is starting at.
Have you been to Clearwater lately? it’s freezing cold over there…
Thanks for posting!
Worse than feeling miserable, it can be dangerous. I write this on my way back from Buffalo, NY where it was in the single digits AND windy. What if you have car problems and are only wearing a light coat?
What kind of gloves do you wear?
Barbra…you may find something like this fits the bill:
Nice post Mr. K! Ive always put fashion first and forgone bulky jackets, justifying my less than capable winter garments with the mindset that Im mostly indoors…or Im only getting in and out of the car or on and off the subway.
However… this year I broke down and bought a massive down jacket, rated for freezing sub zero temps. The garment I swear must weigh about 30 lbs., but it keeps me piping hot. Its amazing how our mindsets change when we are operating at optimal temperature. It truly can make a difference in any activities. Especially one that demands ones full attention, such as photography.
While on the topic of frigid weather, I feel I should mention these Heat Packs:
While they are great at supplementing your garments and providing additional warmpth….where they really shine is in keeping your batteries for yoru camera and flashes up to optimal temperature. Nothing will kill a battery faster than freezing temperatures. Toss them in with your batteries in an inside coat pocket and you and yoru batteries will both be thankful!
PS… I know our buddy Scott must be excited fer the superbowl… me IM just excited that its also GroundHog Day! Hoping for an early spring.
Thanks Jason. Those warmers are awesome. And it is so true. Photography demands your attention and when you’re freezing, it’s hard to concentrate on it.
I have this huge bulky black winter jacket. I’m kinda like you – I like style. It’s actually not the jacket that bothers me though – its the dorky pants and hats that go along with being warm. But hey… every time I wear them I’m happy I am 🙂
Yes youre definitely a stylish chap. ( I dug the jacket ya were rockin at PhotoExpo)
One last thought…( while its fresh in my noggin..)
If you’ve not yet seen… you must…The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.
I only mention it because it features a photographer…shooting in bulky winter jacket weather!
Plus its an astonishingly beautiful film in every aspect.
Have a great weekend.
Cool thx man. I’ve been wanting to hit the movies lately so I’ll check it out 🙂
Cold is another good reason for camera body-armor to improve battery performance.