Your Guide to Shooting in the Real @#$%&! Cold

Over the break I photographed two weddings and an engagement shoot. At no time over those three days (and several days surrounding them) did the temperature get warmer than -11C. Indeed, it hovered closer to -20C and on one day crashed to -30C. Then a day or two later similar temperatures hit the U.S. and all of a sudden the weather was news. Thankfully, the “polar vortex” (???) has broken, but it is still winter and life goes on. Here are my survival tips for cold weather shoots:

Wool/Animal Fibres. Whether it’s SmartWool socks or a cashmere sweater, animal fibres are amazing for winter. They are naturally water-resistant, and staying dry is a big part of staying warm. I like to pair animal fibres with technical fabrics (for example, a wool hat with microfleece earmuffs) to get the best of both worlds: natural warmth that cuts the wind.

Layers. Did I wear thermal underwear under my leggings? Socks AND shorts over my tights? A coat over a sweater over a dress over a tank top? Hell yeah I did, and because of that I did not freeze to death. Layers are your friend. Don’t swear a t-shirt in winter and whine about being cold: layer up, friends.

Outerwear. Don’t skimp. I currently have a three-quarter length wool coat, of which my favourite features are the deep pockets and belt to cinch the waist (keeps cold air out!). However, I’m now a Cold Old, so my next winter coat is likely to be a knee-length down-filled beast. My boots are newer, and after years of skimping there as well, I splurged on Sorel’s “Joan of Arctic,” which have done a good job of keeping my toes happy. That said, I recently discovered the Baffin brand, which has a line of boots rated to an incredible -100C

Hot Hands. AG bought me a set of these handwarmers as a stocking stuffer and I do not hesitate to say they have changed my life. They kept my hands from freezing solid on the -36-with-wind-chill day I shot an engagement session in Saint John, and were still hot the promised 10 hours later. I immediately bought a box. Okay. I bought three boxes. Put these in your mittens, your boots, put one in your bra if you have to. Go forth and conquer.