Winter Photography… its a snap if you do it right

winter, clothing, dressing for winter, alberta, jasper, dan jurak, landscape, photography, landscape, reflection,

Winter is here. There is no going back until mid-April.

One of the really neat things about living this far north is that when we approach the shortest days of the year, about 8 hours of daylight where I live, the sun for most of the day stays very low to the horizon. Morning and evening shoots are extended because of the low light.

If thing play out the way that I hope, I’ll be in Jasper in a few days with my two girls while they are away from university for reading week.

Having lived and played in -30 Celsius winters since I was a toddler here I understand the value of being dressed properly to enjoy our long cold periods.

Years ago when I was into running I would get out during lunch break and run in the river valley. My first winter I discovered something that I had long since forgotten.

After ten or twenty minutes of exercise outdoors your body radiates so much heat that you find yourself taking mittens and head coverings off. You open your jacket. Your frozen toes are suddenly flush with heat.

That happens only if you keep busy and when taking photos that usually isn’t the case for me so instead I dress differently.

It is easier to overdress and open up your clothing when you overheat than it is to do the opposite and end up having to cut your time outside short.

Starting from top to bottom, always, always, always wear a warm toque. You can dress like a polar bear and if your head isn’t covered properly most of the heat you generate will be lost there.

For a jacket I wear a heavy down parka and underneath it a fleece jacket. There is a waist string on the jacket to keep snow out when skiing, tightening it also keeps warm air from escaping.

I usually wear cotton or wool pants. Jeans are a no no. When they get wet they seem to say wet forever. Over the pants are a heavy pair of waterproof and insulated snow pants. I often find myself laying down in the snow taking pics. Keeping dry means staying warm.

For boots it depends upon where I am going. I have a heavy pair of arctic type boots that are so large that I cannot safely drive with them. They are rated to something like -85 Celsius. If I am in one spot for a long time I wear them if not I have an insulated pair of hiking boots that I sometimes pair with gators to keep the snow from getting in my boots. Again dry equal warm in the winter.

Hands are alway a problem. They get cold. Cold. Cold. I have a heavy pair of mitten under which I sometimes were a pair of light, really light gloves. Maybe this year I’ll try a portable hand warmer.

As for cameras freezing and condensation, that has never been a problem. I don’t know why. I always have a spare charged battery handy but have never had to replace one while shooting.

There you have it. Dress properly for winter and you will enjoy it every bit as much as the warmer months.

Happy shooting,


~ by Dan Jurak on November 12, 2018.

8 Responses to “Winter Photography… its a snap if you do it right”

  1. Ugh! Winter. People who know me well know that I detest winter and the cold. I grew up caressed by the always warm tropical winds and sun of the West Indies with a background of lush tropical rainforests. Winter feels too much like “the end”; endless grey in the skies and the landscape, commuting to work in the dark, and never a warm moment. I must be insane to have settled in New Jersey (USA).

    But I want to make the best of the outdoor photographic opportunities that present themselves this winter. With a full-time job and a lengthy commute, there are no early morning or evening shoots. I have only the weekends for photography.

    I love the image included with this post. It still seems cold to me but lovely. I’ll need to think creatively to find such scenery like this.

    I am also concerned about keeping my insulin pump and other Type 1 diabetes kit inside a safe operational temperature (2ºC to 30ºC). The pump is worn on a belt loop.

    I admit I did not know what a “toque” is. But after some quick Google foo, I realized we call them beanies in New Jersey.

  2. Khürt that last sentence made me chuckle. Toque I believe is a Canadian term.

    You probably have it worse than we do in Alberta because our winter humidity is never very high. We do get horrible winds when coupled with ultra cold temps that can freeze exposed flesh in under a minute. I laugh when I see Hollywood movies that are supposed to portray cold temps and the actors have their hands exposed with no head covering. Anyone who has lived a Canadian winter knows that it just isn’t that way.

    As for your insulin pump, I do know that when I am bundled really warm with layers I can put my hand inside my jacket and it is cozy warm there. Perhaps other cold weather dwellers who read this blog can comment on that?

    As for being in the city… I only usually shoot the prairies because that is where I live. If I lived near the mountains the majority of my photos would be taken there.

    Living in New Jersey presents challenges of a different kind but it would force me to find a way to take photos outdoors whether they were skylines, harbour shots, etc. I really believe that where you live gives you the best chance to capture the best weather and light for that area. After all, the landscape for me is really secondary. It’s more about the weather and the light.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and funny comment 🙂


  3. Oh … I like that gator idea

  4. Ray, I am sure that growing up in Canada you remember the many times of coming in from playing with friends during winter and pulling out chunks and balls of snow from your boots. They always balled up on my wooden socks.

    Many years ago when I started cross country skiing I came upon these things called gators. They were great. I wondered why we never had them as kids.


  5. “There’s no such thing as bad weather when you have good layers.” That was the motto of my daughter when she worked for Helly Hansen and we don’t go outside in the winter without one to three Helly layers to keep us warm!

  6. We learned as kids playing outdoors until our feet and ears were frozen how to dress for winter. Too many memories of being in a WARM not hot bath tub warming up frozen feet until the circulation returned. 🙂

    Thanks for visiting and commenting,

  7. Snow last night (Thursday) but the roads in New Jersey were too treacherous to venture out. Still bad today but I may visit some of the nearby brooks to see what imagery nature may have created.

  8. I have found over the years that the weather that we like to be outside in is not usually the best weather for photos.

    BTW, I spoke to someone who also has an insulin pump and they have no problems with it during our cold winters as long as they have it under their jackets and close to their bodies. We do get some really cold weather so the pump user had no qualms about going out when it was really cold.


    ps. good luck with the brooks. It is only by doing something over and over again do that we actually improve. That applies to most of us, me included.

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