Last January I was on a photography expedition and headed out one morning at about 5:30 a.m. to catch the sunrise. That's pretty early for winter, but there was a full moon and I knew I'd be able to catch it setting before the sun came up. I was fully outfitted with multiple layers, very little skin showing, and toe warmers to buy a little extra time before I had to come in and warm up. My biggest concern was being all alone on the lake and possibly getting sized up as a tasty bowl of Frosted Flakes breakfast cereal by a traveling wolf pack.
It was unbelievably still and peaceful out there. Not a sound was to be heard. I took my time getting across the lake, photographing the full moon when the composition looked good, and made it to the car about 45 minutes later. My next destination was 3/4 mile down the road with another hike from there. I could have walked the entire distance but since I was trying to beat the clock and reserve any warmth I had left in my body for the sunrise shoot, I wanted to get there without further delay.
Once the car was parked, I hiked up about 2 blocks of incline and maybe another block or so of flat terrain when I found a spot to work from. I was on the edge of a cliff and the temp was around 1 degree F. The wind would have felt nice on a hot day, but this morning it was gusting over 20 MPH and that made it feel like below zero temps.
I quickly learned the biggest obstacle I was facing was my own breath. I am no stranger to working in wintery conditions but this had never happened to me before. Despite having my face covered with a ski mask, my breath was freezing on the filter and all around the back of the camera. The real problem was the filter though. They are necessary to hold the sun back when it is that close to rising. Sunrise colors change by the second and even 5 minutes of waiting could be a deal breaker. I tried to wipe the filter off but to no avail. I had to take off my gloves and use the warmth of my fingers to melt the ice and that meant exposing my hands to the bitter cold.
It really wasn't working but there were some other filters I was able to try. That's about when I realized how much my toes were starting to hurt. The toe warmers seemed like they weren't doing anything. I knew I had to get back to the car and fast. When I got there, I took a self-portrait to show the frozen hair that had sneaked out of my cap and scarf. That's the same culprit that was creating havoc with my filters.
I sat in the running car hoping it would generate some heat so I could thaw out before had to face the hike back across the lake to camp. Even the car didn't want to warm up, so I finally headed back encouraged by the warmth the lodge would bring.
Now that I am about to embark on my next journey up there, I am a little wiser for the wear. My trusty old Sorel boots which I have worn since college won't be going with me on this trip. I have invested in a pair of Steger Mukluks. This pair. Some of the warmest ones they make.
I bought the extra wool and reflective foil liners for maximum heat retention. They were expensive but I don't ever want to end a photography gig again due to frozen toes. Word out there is that these are the best and I'm about to put them to the test.
In the meantime, here is a link to Steger Mukluks:
Until next time, I hope you all have a very Happy Valentine's Day and thank you for stopping by.
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.