There is perilous little difference between snow and rain when it’s falling on your camera. It plays merry hell with your images when it falls on the lens, and can also mean a trip to the camera repair shop. I’ve tried the rainproof bags, balked at the underwater cases, mainly because it feels like I’m shooting with a camera wrapped in a condom.
I’ve tried coats, with limited success. I’m a fan of the Black Rapids camera strap, and it gets rather bunched under the arms. Plus there’s zipping and unzipping or buttoning and unbuttoning every time you want to take a shot. So I decided to go old school.
Hence the cloak.
Cloak and Dagger Creations was started by Dina Flockhart, who put together her first cloak more than twenty years ago to stay warm at reenactments. Most cloaks you find are aimed at the costume market, lightweight and of shoddy construction. Cloak and Dagger sew cloaks that are clothing, as well as a variety of period clothing. If I had to take a hike across Middle Earth, it would be in a Cloak and Dagger cloak.
So what are the advantages of a cloak to a photographer on a photo shoot in a snowy wilderness? Well to begin with, it’s warm, and isn’t that the first thing you look for on a winter landscape photography shoot? Second, it’s comfortable, like a warm blanket balanced on your shoulders. But most importantly, it can be thrown open in an instant to get a shot. No buttons, no zippers. There’s no fumbling with zippers and buttons with your camera exposed to the elements. And if you check your owner’s manual, you’re likely to find that your camera is going to stop working somewhere around 30 degrees F. The cloak traps body heat, which keeps your camera functioning a lot longer.
And there’s the hood, deep enough to actually do some good, so you don’t have a shiny and wet, red face poking out.
Best of all perhaps are the looks you get when you meet someone on a deserted forest trail in the midst of a blizzard, when you appear for all intents and purposes to be the angel of death. Other hikers cut a wide swatch on the trail, if not turn around and head the other direction. Which can save a lot of time Photoshopping other hikers out of your landscapes.
If there’s a drawback, it’s off trail, when you find yourself in a thicket. Briars and wool act quite a bit like velcro, and it can take what seems forever to get through a patch. The weight can get a bit crazy as well, as it probably tips the scale somewhere between ten and twenty pounds. But as it cuts down on the number of layers you need, it all evens out.
Okay, so it’s not for everyone. If you’re into the latest photographer’s fashions and have your lens tricked out with Lens Skins, you’re likely to feel a bit out of style looking like Bilbo Baggins. But if you can get past that, you soon learn, some of the best solutions are the oldest solutions.