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Words from the Pros : 5 Winter Photography Tips

This winter in the Pacific Northwest Mother Nature has been kind and brought us colder snowy weather than last year’s dismal “winter” where I often found myself in a t-shirt while doing outdoor activities in the local mountains. With the avalanche danger high from lots of recent snow I played it smart and headed up to Mount Hood to snow camp at Trillium Lake. I like to avoid places this popular yet camping here in winter you typically have the place to yourself, the best way to enjoy it.

On a recent snow bound outing I took the Sukha bag from f-stop gear with me to see how it did going overnight. Normally when I do any backpacking I take one of my f-stop ICUs, fill it up and put in my larger non-f-stop backpack. This no longer is my only option.

At 70 liters of internal storage the Sukha can handle enough gear for a comfortable one to three night backpack trip. You might be able to go longer if you are someone that packs really light. I don’t take my whole gear rack yet I don’t pack ultra-light either.

I pull out my gear for the trip and attach all the gatekeepers I can on the Sukha for external storage. All said and done there are straps to carry gear on all sides of the bag which is definitely a plus over my normal go-to backpacking pack which lacks this on the top. Even with 70 liters of internal storage, plenty of external storage is needed. You start thinking about snow shovel, tent, tripod, etc you can see why.

One of the first things I noticed while using this bag for the first time is the top notch materials. It feels bomb proof from the bottom to top. Simply put it’s something I feel very comfortable transporting my camera gear in any element.

Why do I think it’s made very well? If there is any question how well these packs are built I found out on this trip. On the top I put small gate keepers when I should have used large for my use. On the way out I put my sleeping bag on and it forced me to connect the buckles with a very very tight connection, pretty much pulling at the seams of the pack. Although I don’t recommend this it did nothing to the actual seems after I got back to my car when I snapped the sleeping bag off. Stitching is top grade.

For this trip I chose to take my Sony mirrorless camera system to travel lighter. I used the micro ICU, Harney Pouch and Tripod bag to carry all my photo gear. When I backpack with my DSLR I use the small ICU which normally holds my couple lenses and accessories.

What I like about this pack or learned from this trip about f-stop gear:

  • Great alternative to traditional backpacking packs for easier access to your photo equipment when stored inside the belly.
  • I like the pockets on the waist belt for easy access to snacks without needing to use any zippers.
  • I am now sold on the tripod bag, especially for backpacking. I admit 100% that when I first saw this item a while back I thought I would have no use for it. Once you use it and realize how little weight it adds and how much versatility it adds to where you can securely store your tripod you likely will be sold too. Lastly it’s quicker to take your tripod in and out. Why? You don’t have to unclip everything. Simply loosening the buckles and open the bag. You can leave the bag attached.
  • I have always been the guy that prefers a very large backpacking pack to store as much as I can inside. After using all the gatekeepers around the outside of my Sukha I realize how nice it is not stuffing everything inside the pack. Just be sure to carry a large rain cover in case the weather turns.
  • Like I have come to expect for f-stop bags this one sits well no matter the activity. Even though it was loaded for my trip to the point of resembling a stuffed Thanksgiving turkey with additional gear strapped on the outside, it always felt comfortable.

What were my favorite placements and items to attach on the outside? Well I tried several variations yet this worked best:

  • Tent on bottom, sleeping bag on top, snow shovel and tripod on the sides. I left the back open for tossing the snowshoes on in places they were not needed or when I was carrying my snowboard.

Five good to know tips for winter photography:

  • Keep your camera cool and only very gradually warm it up. For example on this trip I kept the camera in the tent overnight yet it stayed in the camera bag. I did not take out the camera and keep it my sleeping bag on it’s own. Warm it up too fast you can get condensation in lens and camera.
  • Snuggle your batteries, don’t worry I won’t tell anyone. They don’t like cold! I wear them in pockets next to my body to keep them warm at all times. At night the one from my camera comes out and into my sleeping bag.
  • For your tripod avoid water or be cautious during the day if temps warm slightly above freezing and then cool down again. It won’t take much to lock your tripod legs solid! A tip is to carry the a couple instant heat packs. If you don’t need them for your feet or hands then you can use them help warm up sections of your tripod to get them loose again.
  • Watch where you are walking. As we setup camp I realized I stepped all over a spot that would have been a great foreground. Unlike dirt where your footprints are easier to blend or less noticeable, big deep cylinders from boots or snowshoe tracks stick out.
  • Have gloves that keep your hands warm while letting you operate the camera. My preference is a thin pair of windproof gloves with mittens over the top where the fingers on the mittens open up. When I am waiting to take photos my fingers are
    warm, when I need to quickly take the photo I don’t need to remove the gloves or mitts.

 

Besides taking my Sukha backpacking in the snow I took it for a hike with my snowboard to earn-my-turns. I kept it light and I was not packed for an overnight trip yet had plenty of essentials including my camera gear. It felt fine on my back the whole ride down. Certainly you can feel it’s bigger than say the Kenti (which I have also used for carrying my snowboard) yet not as much as I expected. If you need extra room for your skiing or boarding this might be the pack for you.

Lastly I did hope for at least one nice sunset or sunrise on the trip. I got one nice morning with the foreground over the frozen lake looking like a bed of cotton and warm alpenglow on the mountain. Beautiful way to start out my day.

 

Author: Adrian Klein