As I've traveled around the world doing landscape photography, I've slowly changed what I wear each time and have come up with a system that works for me. Having the right clothing won't exactly improve your image quality, but it can make your adventure far more pleasant.
What I'm Looking For
- I need clothes that are adaptable. I'm often traveling to other countries and only have one suitcase to last me for a week. I need clothes that can work for warmer days, wet days, cold days, etc.
- Lightweight and non-bulky clothes make it much easier to fit a jacket or other clothes into a camera bag along with my other gear.
- Water resistant clothes are a must for me. I'm often photographing waterfalls where they'll get spray on them, at the beach, and in rain storms. However, the clothes also need to have enough ventilation or else they get hot and stinky.
- Pockets galore. You can never have enough pockets when out shooting. Aside from a wallet, keys, and cell phone, you may be carrying a passport, filters, a small lens, a microfiber cloth, ballhead wrench, etc.
So having said that, here is what I prefer for outdoor photography. Some of the brands have been changed from the ones I own because I don't like a couple pieces of my outdoor wear and look to change them with these.
Waterproof Taped-Seam Outer Shell without Insulation
Recommendation: Arcteryx Alpha SL Lightweight Outer Jacket
I start my clothing for every single trip with a waterproof outer layer with taped seams. It's rare that I go on a landscape photography trip without a waterproof jacket, because usually the best photo locations have interesting weather–and that means rain. I like to go to places where the weather WON'T be sunny.
The reason I picked this specific jacket is that it has no insulation to speak of, which means I can wear it in a summer rainstorm or in the winter with an insulating jacket underneath.
An outer layer not only keeps the rain out, but is an excellent choice on windy days because it's meant to have no holes or way for the elements to get in.
I strongly prefer having a jacket with taped seams to prevent water or wind from getting in, and also a hood. Check the front zipper and make sure there is material behind it to further prevent weather from getting in.
The jacket I currently use is from Columbia but I'm looking to replace it with this one. The Columbia one poofs up like a marshmallow and makes me look even wider than I am.
Packable Down Puffer Jacket
Recommendation: Hawke and Co Packable Down Puffer Jacket
This jacket is so versatile! It only costs $50 but has served me well for two years. I like this one because it's extremely lightweight, packs into its own pocket so it's very small, and is cheap.
The idea of this layer is to insulate. You have an outer jacket to keep the wind out, and this layer is just added for very cold days to keep you warm. I've warn this combination of outer jacket and down puffer in both Yellowstone in the winter, to Iceland to Oregon.
I always bring this down puffer jacket with me even if I'm going to a warm place because it keeps me warm on the airplane and is a perfect pillow for when I'm in China or Japan where they use boulders in place of pillows.
Cheaper Recommendation: CQR Lightweight Tactical Assault Cargo Pants. Who wouldn't want pants with the name “assault” in them?!?! These are clones of the 5.11 pants, but don't have the slot for a kneepad.
This is my favorite part of my outdoor clothing setup. Tactical pants have three benefits for landscape photographers.
- Water Resistant: I like using water resistant pants because I'm always kneeling down to get interesting angles or caught in a rain storm. I prefer water resistant pants and not waterproof. Waterproof pants are hard to hike in because they are so hot and muggy. I'd rather just go water resistant so they breathe.
- Tons of Pockets: I have lots of gear and stuff to carry with me and like having all the pockets I can get. Also makes me feel like Macgyver.
- Knee Pads: On many tactical pants you can buy an additional foam insert knee pad. They make it much more comfortable to kneel down next to a low camera and get the right shot–especially in rocky areas. since they slip inside the pants, you can't really even see them.
Low-Top Waterproof Boots
Recommendation: Merrell Men's Moab Waterproof Boots
I really like having waterproof boots for hiking around in mud, through streams, and in puddles. A few times I've tried to get away with regular boots and inevitably they get soaked on day one and then I'm fighting wet feet all week.
The problem with waterproof boots is that they don't breathe, so they have a tendency to smell nasty fast. I bought a couple pairs of high top waterproof boots first, and they got too hot on warm days and smelly too.
Instead, I use low top boots because they are waterproof, but allow more air in and stay nice for the long term. There are lots of good brands out there, but when I bought I heard over and over from people that Merrell makes the longest lasting boot on the trail, so I went with them and have been happy with them.
Lightweight Gloves with Finger Cutouts
Recommendation: Valleret Photography Gloves
Even in the summer months, I'm often in the mountains where it can be a little cold in the mornings. Other times, it's truly cold and I need gloves. These are awesome gloves made for photographers. They are pricey, but make you look cool (which is the objective, right? Right?)
There really is no need to choose actual photography gloves like these. You really just need a glove without fingers on the thumb or forefinger so you can easily control the camera. However, these are look cool and have a pocket to fit an SD card (gimmick? yeah….).
Recommendation: Outdoor Research Men's Highcamp 3 Finger Gloves
The gloves above are perfect when it's cold outside and you need something on your hands; however, when it's really cold–like, nose hairs are freezing cold–you need something more substantial.
For that, I highly recommend three finger gloves. 3 finger gloves are perfect because you get the warmth of a mitten with the dexterity of a fingered glove. A nice side-benefit is that you look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That's always nice.
These are the most expensive gloves I've ever bought, but I've been using them for four years now and can confirm they are the best snow gloves out there.
These Outdoor Research Gloves have a main glove and a thin liner inside. That's perfect because you can simply use your Valleret photography gloves as the liner. This way you have your hands warm while walking around, and then you can slip off the heavy outer glove and use the photography gloves to manipulate your camera for a minute, then slip back inside the warmth.
So that's it. That's what I wear for landscape photography. Any cool recommendations I should know about? I read every comment. Oh, and no messing with me about writing a fashion article 🙂