Snowshoeing on snow machine trail on Kennicott River, winter, McCarthy, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
The cold in Alaska, in the winter, is incredible. Its stillness, its silence, its depth, and the intimacy of really feeling alone in the frozen north woods is an experience like no other. it’s It’s almost as if the cold is some thing, some being itself, a tangible reality rather than a temperature. It’s a unique experience, and it’s not at all entirely bad – in fact, I love it. But I don’t love freezing my tail off. My friend Patrick Endres, longtime Alaska resident and a fantastic photographer says it best, “I like being in the cold, but I don’t like being cold”. It’s really an extraordinary experience, and I do look forward to the winter. But I don’t want to be cold; I want to be bundled up and cozy, and enjoy the cold from inside my insulation.
Photography in the cold is a tough gig; snowshoeing or skiing is rough when the mercury falls beneath minus 20, but doesn’t come close to trying to photograph in similar conditions, in my opinion. I haven’t found any activity that compares to photography; standing around, not moving much, trying to operate fiddly, frozen camera controls and tripods with fingers that refuse to move. I’ve crosscountry skied 10 miles and more at 45below, and I’ll take that any day over futzing with my camera at 30 below. When those mitts come off and my fingertips touch frozen metal, it burns like, well, like I don’t like it at all. So, if you’re headed to Alaska for some winter photography, such as for the Iditarod or to photograph the aurora borealis, hopefully this page might provide you some use.
Your winter clothing should align with the Three L’s: “Loft, Loose, and Lots” of it. That’s the key to warmth here. Big puffy down jackets, loose, not tight fit, and lots of clothes, head to toe = warm. Don’t skimp.
A good basic rule for cold weather clothing (and I mean, crazy, Alaska-winter cold, not 45 degrees F chilly) is a simple one; looser fits = better. Tighter fits, especially with footwear and handwear, are colder = NOT better. So keep that in mind when you order your boots, socks and gloves.
Comfort isn’t the bottom line here; at 40 below, comfort means warm. So buy your gear a little bigger than usual – a half size or so, if possible. Don’t go crazy, but don’t go with that sleek, skin-tight muscle shirt and form fitting, skin tight lycra pants you prance around in during the summer. Trust me. 🙂
The specific items list below is not meant to suggest these items are what you need, or even that these are what I think is best; it’s simply a look at what I have, or what I wish I had. Most of it works pretty well, and I’ve noted any items here that I think might not be the best choice. So, for now, my cold weather photography (i.e., not backcountry-travel) clothing goes a little something like this: …. Read the rest of this entry » »