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Winter in Iceland

Justin Minns is a professional landscape photographer and unsurprisingly, spends a lot of his time outdoors. He specialises in dramatic, atmospheric images and as the best conditions often occur when the weather is ‘bad’, capturing them involves being out in all weathers. Days can be long, often starting in the early hours of the morning, chasing the light late into the evening or even working in the middle of the night (as you are about to discover) and it’s important for him to be comfortable so he can stay focused whatever the weather.

After that lovely introduction, I’ll tell you a little bit more about me.

I also teach landscape photography, leading workshop groups to some of the most beautiful locations around the world, landscapes with extremes of weather ranging from the fierce heat of Saudi Arabia to the freezing Canadian rockies in winter so I need a wide range of clothing and footwear to cope with these different conditions.

The real challenge though when choosing outdoor clothing is that what I need often changes over the course of a shoot. It usually begins with a period of activity, working up a sweat lugging a backpack full of camera gear to my chosen location but then I spend long periods of time, hours on end, standing around waiting for the light to materialise. So flexibility is essential, which is where Páramo comes in. I must admit I prefer natural fibres for base layers but when it comes to those essential outer layers, Páramo are hard to beat for both weatherproofing and breathability.

My day to day jacket is a Velez Adventure light smock, I chose a smock because of the large chest pouch which is perfect for quick access to the bits and bobs I need, The Velez, combined with a variety of different layers, keeps me warm and dry through much of the year. In warm weather I keep it in my bag just in case it rains or to slip on if temperatures drop as the sun goes down. In winter I wear it over a base layer for walking while the activity helps keep me warm. Then when I stop and need extra insulation I put a Torres Alturo jacket over the top. The Torres packs down small enough to fit in my bag and the insulation is amazing, putting it on feels like slipping into a sleeping bag.

One of the highlights of my year is the winter trips to the south and west of Iceland to photograph the northern lights. These images were taken on a trip to the south in January 2018 when we spent each of the (admittedly short) days out in the elements from dawn to dusk photographing some of the most unusual and dramatic landscapes in the world. Highlights including the jagged snow covered peaks of the Vestrahorn mountain which tower over a lunar landscape of volcanic black sand dunes and Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, where huge chunks of frosty blue and crystal clear ice from the Vatnajökull glacier glide out to sea before crashing back onto the black sand beach like thousands of diamonds. Every night after dinner and some much needed downtime we returned to the glaciers until the early hours of the morning to photograph the aurora borealis shimmering over the ice… it’s an intensive couple of weeks.

Hovering just a few degrees below freezing, temperatures themselves aren’t too extreme but the wind chill can be a biting -10°C and temperatures plummet in the middle of the night so without decent windproof, insulation those days (and nights) are going to feel long and miserable. My Páramo kit copes admirably with these conditions. Cascada II trousers, worn over long johns for extra warmth and my Torres Alturo jacket over a base layer and fleece keep the wind out and the warmth in.

There’s no better feeling than being out in inhospitable weather but comfortable in the right clothes… I call it warm & smug.

Justin Minns

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