When it gets really, really, really cold…

cold weather, cold photography, winter, snow, thirty below celsius, Alberta, Canada, arctic, frost, Dan Jurak, landscape, photography,

This winter came in like a lamb. There were many days in December when the temperatures were well above freezing and my best buddy Cooper (a six year old Weimaraner) and I would spend an hour to an hour and a half every day. It was so warm that I would wear a light fleece and windbreaker and still have them both unzipped before the walk was over. So warm.

We in central Alberta were spoiled. Over the holidays a cold snap slid in from the arctic and made things seem Christmasy. Lots of winter weather followed by more unseasonably warm weather and now once again we are in the throes of arctic temperatures.

My girls usually drive to university preferring that over public transportation which to those unfamiliar with real winters means plugging in their vehicle overnight. We have a thing in Canada for automobiles called “block heaters”. It is a heater that is affixed to the block of the engine and when plugged into an electrical outlet keeps the engine oil warm and viscous because at temperatures -20 Celsius and lower regular engine oil takes on the thickness of molasses. Engines don’t turn over easily when the temperatures get really cold. Of course dad has been plugging in their vehicle before they go to bed so that their engine block is a little warmer for when they leave for school in the morning.

The forecasted temperature for tonight is -32 Celsius with wind chills around -42 Celsius and at those temperatures the atmosphere can look dream like. Mornings when it is that cold can have the surrounding country glazed in a heavy frost, that is if there is no wind.

For me, what makes a landscape photo special is not so much were it is but what the weather conditions and light are. Many are the mornings when I filled my thermos to the top with extra hot coffee and loaded my gear into the Rav bundled up like when I was a toddler.

Much is made about taking photos in the extreme cold but it is very safe if done properly.

Dressing is simple. Lots of layers. That means long  underwear followed by pants and shirt, a light sweater, a fleece jacket a parka, snow pants, snow boots a heavy toque and oversized mittens that allow  me to wear a pair of ultralight gloves underneath. The gloves allow me to pull my hands from the mittens to use the camera controls longer than if I had my bare skin exposed.

The reason for the snow pants is simple. Not only does the extra layer keep you warmer but snow pants are usually water proof and if you have knelt in snow with trousers or jeans you have found out very quickly how fast the snow melts and you become even colder. The snow pants help keep you dry. Dry equals warm in the snow usually.

If I get too warm I open up a few layers. Conversely I am never far away from my vehicle so if I get too cold it is into the Rav and turn the heater to high for a few minutes.

Many people have written about having an extra battery handy as batter life is reduced when it is very cold. I have never had a battery die on me while outdoors. Lucky? I dunno but I always  make sure that whatever I have is fully charged before leaving home.

One advantage of digital over film is that back in the day when it got to thirty below motor drives on cameras could and would tear film as it became ultra brittle. No such problem when you aren’t shooting film. LOL

Because I am very fast when taking photos there isn’t any long time that I am standing still and waiting for things to get right. You don’t want to be standing in one place for too long.

The cold temperatures are predicted to ease up over the weekend which might mean that our American neighbours to the south get another blast of arctic temps. Just sharing the love. 🙂

I do love winter.

Happy shooting,



~ by Dan Jurak on January 11, 2018.

9 Responses to “When it gets really, really, really cold…”

  1. lovely post, that is a gorgeous photo.

  2. Thank you Kelly, Alberta is a beautiful place to live, even when it’s cold. LOL

  3. I spend a summer in Lake Louise, there was a hail storm in August, that covered the ground looked like snow. I and I visited a friend at Christmas one year, It was very cold, It has been very cold here in NB, but warm and rainy today and tomorrow.

  4. Lake Louise is lovely but very crowded. Snow in the mountains during mid-summer is not unusual. I doesn’t last very long. Same goes for the hail. NB is a gorgeous province. You are blessed to live there.

  5. Thank you. I grew up in Cape Breton, I moved here four years ago, I have discovered NB has some beautiful places and I really love it here now.

  6. Even with us it is still very warm and without snow: about 5 ° C. Last year we had about -20 ° to -30 ° C (North Slovakia, Orava).


  7. Hi Vlado,
    Winter is not over yet. 🙂 Enjoy the warm weather while it is there,

  8. It’s been absolutely freezing for me too. I can’t stand the cold weather so I layer up like crazy. Fleece lined leggings, jeans, snow pants, undershirt, sweater, do, down jacket, long down coat, and an absolutely massive winter parka.

  9. Jane, my test for cold is how painful it is being outside. If it is so cold that I want to cry, that is cold, otherwise it’s just winter. LOL

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