Staying Warm This Winter

By Geoff Harris

Christmas is on its way. Despite all my subtle (and not so subtle hints) about lenses and cameras I suspect I’ll just be getting socks. Again. Still, socks are an underrated garment. For landscape photographers a warm pair of socks can be the difference between being comfortable and prematurely giving up for the day. Woollen socks can’t be beaten when it comes to keeping your feet warm. After all, if it’s good enough for sheep then it’s good enough for you.

Snow-covered landscape between Housesteads Fort and Milecastle 37, Northumberland National Park, England

Despite cold, winter is a wonderful time for photography.

Landscape photography often means standing around and waiting. If the ground is cold and your feet aren’t insulated then you’ll quickly begin to suffer. Bog-standard wellingtons (or gum boots) generally aren’t a good idea for this reason. They’re fine for general use in snow or ice but they’re not the warmest footwear you can buy. Though more expensive, neoprene boots are a better bet. If you can find a pair that’s fleece-lined then so much the better.

Blackrock Cottage at the foot of Meall a’ Bhuird, Rannoch Moor with Buachaille Etive Mor (Stob Bearg) behind, Scottish Highlands, Scotland

Keeping warm while waiting for the light on cold mornings doesn't have to be a test of endurance.

Keeping warm in winter is a challenge when you’re standing around. Movement, such as walking, generates heat. Stop moving and this heat is quickly lost. The traditional way to trap body heat is to use layers of clothing, starting with a thermal base layer and finishing with a water and windproof layer. Each layer traps warm air, air that’s been warmed by your body heat. If you start to get too hot you can gradually remove away layers. The layering technique is therefore both effective and efficient.

Blackface sheep on Hadrian's Wall near Housesteads Fort in the snow, Northumberland National Park, England

Wool is an excellent insulator. Just ask any sheep!

Hands can be a problem. Thick gloves will keep them warm, but thick gloves make using camera controls tricky. It’s all too easy to press the wrong button accidentally when wearing gloves. However, take your gloves off to use your camera and your hands will immediately begin to get cold. Gloves also make using touchscreens difficult. The solution once more is layering. A thicker outer glove will keep your hands warm when you’re not using a camera.

A thin, inner glove (once you’ve taken off your outer gloves) will allow you to use your camera’s controls without losing all feeling in your fingers. If your camera has a touchscreen you could either invest in a pair gloves that have special conductive fingertips or wear fingerless gloves under your thicker, outer gloves.

Star trail of the south-western sky over Buachaille Etive Mor in the Scottish Highlands

Shooting star trails means being out for hours on end. If you're not warm, you won't stay the distance.

Although it’s a myth that most of your body heat is lost through your head a hat is essential when outdoors in winter. A hat with a brim is useful to direct rain away from your face. However, the brim can be a hazard when using a camera. If you’re anything like me it’s easy to forget about the brim when bringing your camera to your face.

Late afternoon in winter, looking towards West Allendale from  Kevelin Moor above Allendale in the NPAONB, Northumberland, England

Wind chill will reduce the ambient temperature further. Windproof clothing is a must.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve either knocked my hat off or almost knocked my camera and tripod over because of my hat’s brim. A brim that can be fastened up and out of the way is therefore useful. Your ears are especially vulnerable to cold so a hat that covers them is ideal, though earmuffs are effective too.

If you have any tips for staying warm this winter (apart from moving to the southern hemisphere) do share them below.

If you would like to learn more about Landscape Photography Why consider taking Sue Bishop’s 4 week online Fine Art Landscape Photography course

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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