Nature or scenic photography is not on any list of hazardous jobs that I know of
but as a photographer in northern Maine I sometimes feel that it should be.
When the weather forecast calls for bitterly cold or subzero temperatures it’s
time to start taking precautions because the job of the outdoor photographer
becomes extremely hazardous. Staying indoors in front of the wood stove,
though inviting, is not really an option since I take pictures for a living and if I
stopped for the winter because of a little cold weather I’d be missing one of
Maine’s best seasons for photography.
I’ve learned to survive the Maine cold the same way I learned photography, on
my own and through trial and error, fortunately for me I learned about dealing
with cold temperatures a lot faster.
I love hiking through the woodlands and farmlands of northern Maine and enjoy
all four of Maine’s unique seasons. Prior to becoming a photographer I endured
Maine’s winters but never had any great love for it. These days I find myself
actually looking forward to winter and it’s ever changing landscape. Taking
photos under cold, harsh winter conditions poses it’s own unique challenges but
nothing a little experience and common sense can’t overcome.
The Trick: Layers
The two biggest challenges are always keeping myself
as well as my camera at least warm enough to function.
A shivering photographer rarely takes a good picture.
As with many other winter outdoor activities the trick
is to dress in layers, the colder it is the more layers.
A good first layer is thermal underwear, followed by
a heavy flannel shirt and flannel lined jeans, and
sweaters or light fleeced jackets are always good.
I top all of that off with a heavy winter coat, I figure
I’m better off with too many layers than too few since
I can always remove a layer if it gets too warm.
Wearing boots that are well insulated and waterproof is also a good idea
because not matter how dry and fluffy the snow may be eventually it will soak
through your boots if they’re not waterproof.
If it’s not too cold I’ll usually just wear a woolen bonnet on my head but in
extreme cold I have this flannel hat with ear flaps that I wear under my bonnet,
it’s not a pretty sight but hey I’m not in front of the camera!
Probably the hardest body part to keep warm when your taking pictures is the
hands and since I’ve never been able to work with gloves on, no matter how thin,
the first thing to come off when I get ready to shoot a pictures is my nice warm
mittens. In all the times I’ve gone out in temperatures well below zero degrees
Fahrenheit I’ve only once gotten a mild case of frostbite. I now use hand warmers
to keep my hands warm or to warm them up after they’ve been exposed for any
length of time.
Hand warmers are also an excellent way to keep the camera warm enough to
keep it functional. Even the best of batteries will stop working quickly in
extreme cold so I make sure my coat pockets are large enough to hold a hand
warmer, my camera, as well as my hand. I also make sure to have spare batteries
with me and try to keep them in an inner pocket so my body heat will keep them
from being drained by the cold. A relatively warm camera and warm hands can
make for some beautiful winter photos.
My most popular photo called “Winter Blues” was taken on one of the coldest
days in January of 2005, the day I got that mild case of frostbite. It always seems
to me that the colder the day the clearer the air is and the better the pictures
come out especially scenic views. I often get e-mails from people who’ve seen
“Winter Blues”, or some of my other winter photos telling me how cold it looks.
It makes me feel all warm inside to know that I’ve actually made someone “feel
the cold” through my photos.
My work can be seen at www.northernmainepictures.com but before you visit —