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As a photographer, how do you manage really cold weather?


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Hi all . . . especially those of you who inhabit the colder climes.

 

Being born on the edge of a desert, and mostly avoiding really cold places, my experience is about to be well and truly tested by spending Christmas in Estonia, New Year's in Istanbul.

 

From a personal point of view, the cold will be manageable, but when it comes to using cameras . . . two things spring to mind:

 

  • wearing gloves vs manipulating camera controls, and
  • dealing with possible condensation in lenses going from toasty to frosty (more vice versa I'm guessing).

 

I manage condensation in south-east Asia no worries (basically by keeping camera gear in least-air-conditioned spot in lodgings) but was wondering how cold-climaters manage both this and reconciling gloves with camera controls.

 

cheers,

DD

Edited by dustydingo
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I found when I was kitted out for snow skiing, it worked for winter-cold photography, too. Starting with thinsulate long johns, top and bottom, thick wool socks over cotton and good boots. Years ago I had what was called “moon boots” that were pillowy, lightweight and very warm. Can’t find them anymore. Then wear layers. Instead of one thick shirt, a couple of thinner ones over the thinsulate top that goes with bottoms.  Layers trap warm air from your natural body heat. Then the insulated, waterproof ski pants and parka. A wool scarf and a good, warm hat.

 

I wore this getup at 3 1/2 hour American football games with bitter cold wind chill and was fine. A face mask can be useful. The boots I had were roomy enough I could tuck one of the warmers in each toe, and had one in each coat pocket.
If it is windy, sometimes my eyes run tears to the point I can’t look through the viewfinder and see anything clearly. That happened to me last week and I wasn’t prepared because it wasn’t that cold, but it was very windy. Some of my pictures were pretty crooked because I couldn’t see a darned thing between the tears and bright sun blurring my vision. Safety glasses, those with the side shield will help that. Or ski goggles that will really shut out the wind.  Put them on a strap so you can yank them off to hang around your neck before you look through the viewfinder. 
There is an inner glove that is almost like woven metal. It’s like there’s little bits of aluminum or something woven in. When your hands get cold, you can take off the outer gloves and rub your hands, clad in the inner gloves, together briskly and the inner glove causes friction, warming your hands. Don’t forget the big Hankie! Noses run along with eyes!

it gets pretty cold and windy at the top of the Rockies in the winter. I stayed warm. Of course I had ski boots up there. And then skiing helps keep one warm. So stay moving.

One trick that worked well was cotton socks, then a layer of secured plastic over the cotton. Wool over those. Feet sweat, and wet feet get colder. The idea is to trap the sweat under the plastic in the cotton socks and the wool sock stays dry, the cold can’t get through. I skied like that. It worked better than without.  Sometimes I used a plastic bread sack secured with a rubber band not so tight as to cut circulation.

Betty

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I used to spend a lot of my winters in ski resorts shooting for tour companies and remember those Moon Boots well. They were mostly an apres ski fashion thing. They looked nice and fluffy but were only really suitable for soft fresh snow. As soon as they encountered slush (which was going to be soon!) they turned soggy and horrid. The Sorel type boots could stomp through 3 or four inches of slush and puddles with ease. Not so pretty, I grant you, but mine have lasted over 50 years. They look more at home in a farmyard, but keep my feet happy.

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6 minutes ago, Harry Harrison said:

Michael, you were right about the Kaufman connection to Sorel boots, but the history section in the profile on Wikipedia took my breath away I must say!

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaufman_Footwear

 

That is NUTS! No pun intended.

 

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1 hour ago, Robert M Estall said:

I used to spend a lot of my winters in ski resorts shooting for tour companies and remember those Moon Boots well. They were mostly an apres ski fashion thing. They looked nice and fluffy but were only really suitable for soft fresh snow. As soon as they encountered slush (which was going to be soon!) they turned soggy and horrid. The Sorel type boots could stomp through 3 or four inches of slush and puddles with ease. Not so pretty, I grant you, but mine have lasted over 50 years. They look more at home in a farmyard, but keep my feet happy.

Guess I never wore them that much in slush, that I can remember. And yes, they were the rage for awhile. They were like wrapping my feet in marshmallows, the most comfortable things ever. No chaffing, rubbing, causing blisters, and accommodated thick woolen socks very well. Maybe my brand held up better than yours!

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Wool hiking socks. They wick away sweat and are great in both warm weather and cold. Darn Tough, LL Bean, Smartwool, all make them. Too late now you're probably back from your trip, but they are the best in future. Winter hiking boots that are waterproof. Thin gloves with a tech finger on the index finger and thumb under a pair of warm fingerless gloves, preferably with a foldover mitten. I got an awesome pair in Iceland for a frigid 5AM summer hike. Warm hat. My ears, toes and fingers get cold easily so I always make sure they are protected in the cold. Thin long underwear - either silk - packs easily and fits under normal sized clothing - or one of the super thin high tech fabrics. They also dry fast so you can rinse them out at night. Cashmere sweater - warmest wool you can buy and very thin for its warmth, so easy to pack. And wool breathes so you don't sweat. Sweat is your enemy in cold weather. I also like to have something with a hood. Bet Estonia was lovely at Christmas. 

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10 hours ago, Marianne said:

Wool hiking socks. They wick away sweat and are great in both warm weather and cold. Darn Tough, LL Bean, Smartwool, all make them. Too late now you're probably back from your trip, but they are the best in future. Winter hiking boots that are waterproof. Thin gloves with a tech finger on the index finger and thumb under a pair of warm fingerless gloves, preferably with a foldover mitten. I got an awesome pair in Iceland for a frigid 5AM summer hike. Warm hat. My ears, toes and fingers get cold easily so I always make sure they are protected in the cold. Thin long underwear - either silk - packs easily and fits under normal sized clothing - or one of the super thin high tech fabrics. They also dry fast so you can rinse them out at night. Cashmere sweater - warmest wool you can buy and very thin for its warmth, so easy to pack. And wool breathes so you don't sweat. Sweat is your enemy in cold weather. I also like to have something with a hood. Bet Estonia was lovely at Christmas. 

 

Hi Marianee, thank you for the reply. And yes, we are back, and yes yes, Estonia was indeed lovely at Christmas--actually, I'd hazard an educated guess that it's lovely all year around, but especially so at Christmas 🙂

 

I ended up taking some good but plain ordinary woollen socks--my boots are waterproof and combined with the socks, not a problem. I kept my left hand in a "normal" woollen glove and my right "using the camera's fiddly bits" hand kept warm in a pocket with a chemical hand-warmer pack.

Strongly agree with having a warm hat, always pulled down over my ears, and a scarf for pulling over my face when the wind got really icy. And jacket was water and wind proof and had a hood.

 

Otherwise it was a breeze for a bloke born and raised on the edge of a (mostly) treeless sun-baked desert and who had temperatures of 40, 41 and 40.5 Celsius on the three days immediately prior to flying to Estonia 🙂

 

Oh . . . and I highly recommend the quickly-adopted strategy of drinking glögg at regular intervals during the day . . .

 

DD

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Sheldon @dustydingo,

Glad your trip was a success and that you managed to stay warm. Tallinn was beautiful in the summer when I was there, back in 2011, and I'd agree I'm sure it's lovely year round. Nice photos from your trip so far. Too bad you didn't get some snow - tougher for travel but so lovely for winter photos. And a treat for you coming from Australia I'd imagine. It was brutally hot when I was there in August, and being from New York our temps can get below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and above 100 in summer. 

 

I was quite impressed by your knowledge of flowers. Very thorough captions. 

Edited by Marianne
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