As much as I love living here, the Pacific Northwest has its harsh realities. For instance, weather conditions change by the minute, rarely follow an expected pattern, and sometimes turn extreme. And though our seasons make for some phenomenal nature photography, gearing up for them can be a pain. Winters are wet and cold, while summers are hot and uncomfortable.
Today I’d like to share a list of stuff essential for any PDX/Pacific Northwest photographer. These items will help you keep your equipment safe and your photo shoots running smoothly.
#1 – A Seasonal Coat/Jacket
As I mentioned in the introduction, the climate around here can be a little unpredictable. Accordingly, it’s important to keep a jacket appropriate for the season in your travel kit: wind breaker during the summer, warm coat during the winter. And a standby jacket ensures that you remain comfortable during your sessions regardless of whatever surprises the weather brings.
#2 – Hand Warmers & Moisture Absorbents
You know those packets that sometimes come in shipments—the little bags of silica gel that you should definitely not eat? Ever wonder what those are for? As it turns out, they absorb moisture inside of packages, which also makes them incredibly useful in a wet climate like the Pacific Northwest. Keep your gear dry and moisture free by buying a few (or hanging onto them the next time you receive a package) and keeping them in your bag.
Make sure to protect yourself from dampness, too. The wet climate means sudden temperature drops feel especially cold, so carry a few hand warmers in your jacket pocket and you’ll be able to warm up in a hurry whenever the weather gets chilly. Aside from helping you stay comfortable, this also allows you to keep your batteries from freezing.
#3 – Portable Changing Station
The city of Portland—and Oregon in general—is known for its vast variety of photographable environments: gardens, historic buildings, waterfalls, bluffs, farmland, and so on. Consequently, as a photographer, you’re likely to find yourself traveling away from civilization on a fairly regular basis, with no bathrooms or easy locations to change wardrobe in. If you’re taking portraits, how can you give your subjects or talent a place to change so they don’t have to go through that awkward process inside the vehicle you’re all sharing, or behind a bush or tree? A portable, pop-up changing station is an easy and effective solution—and, best of all, it’s inexpensive.
#4 – Plastic Bags & Rubber Bands, or Disposable Rain Covers
I can’t stress this enough: Oregon is wet. Given the amount of rainfall we have to deal with here on a yearly basis, keeping your equipment dry is a necessity. Fortunately, doing so is relatively easy and cheap: all you really need is a few disposable rain covers. In fact, if you want to save even more, why not simply use a plastic shopping bag and a rubber band or two? This will work in virtually all situations aside from a torrential downpour. But let’s face it: if it’s that wet outside, chances are you’re probably staying in.
#5 – An Old School Road Map
Your mission to find the coolest locations to shoot will likely take you to places where cell service is spotty at best and where phone-based GPS systems start to become unreliable. Get a road map of the area you plan to travel in—seriously. It’s an old school solution, but it can be a lifesaver, not only when you’re navigating to your location, but also for finding your way back once it’s time to go home.
Hopefully, this list has given you some idea of the kind of preparation a climate like the Pacific Northwest demands. Those of you visiting the area should take this list to heart and consider each item—they could save your (organic, grass-fed) bacon.
What’s in your PNW/PDX photography kit?