I thought I’d take a break from all the metadata talk and get back to the field. We are getting some snow around these parts and the photography is changing as a result. But getting to and from the places I like to shoot has been a challenge. This and next week’s posts will discuss how to meet some of these challenges and safely enjoy photography in wintertime.
I have never been much to worry about footing in snow and ice. Being a skier and climber, I have pretty good balance and coordination. But recently I’ve performed a few spectacular face-plants. Thankfully there is no photographic evidence. I know, funny, huh? Maybe for you!
A lot of hikers around here use traction devices for your feet. They range from simple “mini-chains” to a lighter version of crampons that ice climbers use. Some look like the studs on car tires. There is quite the variety – check them out at REI online . You can also make your own, but that means dedicating a pair of boots or sneakers. It’s certainly cheaper than buying, but you lose the ability to use them on a variety of footwear.
As I mentioned, I have always just dealt with slippery conditions. I wear good boots and turn around when things too get steep and icy (unless I have my crampons and ice axe). Yesterday I was hiking back from the waterfall pictured below, in the Columbia River Gorge. About 5 inches of light snow lay over patch ice. As you might expect I went down, hard. It was a surprise to me; a wake-up call. I’m glad my camera was safely stowed in my pack. It would have likely been damaged.
When I went down a second time, despite using care, I sat there thinking. Perhaps it was time to get some strap-on traction devices. Maybe it’s foolish pride that’s keeping me from getting them, similar to the fact I rarely use trekking poles. I know one thing: it’s more embarrassing to go head over heels than take a moment to put on traction devices at the trail head.
Safety for yourself is most important. But there’s also a lesson here concerning your camera gear. I mostly recommend keeping your camera handy when out photographing. You will certainly miss more shots if your camera is inside your pack or bag. But winter is an exception. If you are in snow or in areas where the footing is suspect, you need to take the time to stow your camera away in your camera pack or bag. This goes for anytime you walk from one place to another.
If you don’t take precautions and sacrifice photo readiness, your camera gear could easily be damaged. And if you somehow save it from being bashed against a rock, your camera could end up being encased in packed snow. I’ve had it happen, and it’s very difficult to clear it before some water gets inside.
So go ahead, feel free to imagine my pratfalls and laugh. But also use the opportunity to consider traction devices for your shoes when you’re out photographing in wintertime. The goal is, after all, to not only get the shot but to get you and your camera back safely. Have a great weekend and happy shooting!