About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter Gloves, Getting a Grip on the Cold


Orchard to Wantastiquet

When I woke this morning to a temperature of -10, two things occurred to me. First I had to prepare myself for the science deniers to once again insist that the arctic cold proves that global warming is a liberal hoax, and second,  I realized that there was no better time to talk about winter clothing for photographers. I've discussed dressing for winter photography in the past, but this time I want to focus on gloves and specifically the array of gloves that I use to match the range of cold weather conditions that we enjoy in New England. This discussion was also triggered by my reading about a new pair of gloves that may be the ultimate in winter warmth, but more about that later.

Over recent years I have found that, along with all the other age
related crumbling, the circulation to my hands has worsen.  As a result my cold tolerance has significantly decreased, making proper gloves essential. The challenge has always been to find gloves that provide sufficient warmth while still being flexible enough to allow control of all those tiny buttons and dials on the camera. I have found that, given the broad range of temperatures in our New England climate, no single pair of gloves works best in all conditions. There are lots of options out there, so all I can do is outline my personal approach.

My Shameful Deformity

Before I begin I have to admit something embarrassing that has always complicated my ability to get the most from gloves. I have the hands of a Neanderthal.  With grotesquely meaty palms and stubby little pig fingers, I could never excel on the piano, but the more important result is that gloves that fit my palms have fingers about an inch too long. I am constantly pulling the gloves down on my fingers to get them to the end. Ok, most of my blogs include at least one spasm of pathetic whining, and I'm happy to get this one out of the way early. Now, moving on.



The Glove Hierarchy


It Is All About the Temperature
My glove choices evolve in response to the temperature and wind.


Hot:

No gloves necessary, just a towel to wipe the sweat off my prehistoric palms.



Thin Silk Glove

Cool
As the weather cools to the point that merely sticking my hands in my pockets is no longer sufficient, I first reach for a very thin cotton or silk glove. These work mostly to cut the wind and allow easy manipulation of the camera controls.







Cold


I'm always looking for new gloves and just before our trip to Alaska this autumn, I came across an interesting pair from AquaTech, which has become my general purpose solution. The AquaTech Sensory Gloves are light weight but quite warm. They have silicone nubs on the palms to improve grip and most uniquely the thumb and index fingers can protrude through curtained openings to allow easy camera adjustments as well as manipulation of hand-held devices. When not needed the fingers can be withdrawn into the glove, protected from the elements by an layer of flexible foam and the internal flap. The AquaTechs have become by general purpose glove for most conditions, but I would note one minor negative. Although they are called "AQUA" Tech, they are not water-proof. Moisture can get in through the thumb and finger holes, but for general winter use they work quite well.
West Hill Evening


Colder

For frigid weather, especially when I expect to be out for longer periods of time, I switch to my trusty half finger mittens. These are mittens that flip away to reveal exposed fingers whenever camera manipulation is required. I have probably owned 10 or more varieties of this basic design. I always seem to loose one of each pair, so I have come to realize that a necessary basic feature is a clip to keep the gloves connected when I drop them into the sucking black hole of my glove drawer. Mittens are always warmer than fingered gloves and it is remarkable how quickly my digits warm up when I flip them back into the mitten flaps. It is helpful to have some mechanism to hold the flaps out of the way when they are open. Rather than fumbling with snaps, I prefer magnets or Velcro to keep the flaps secure.




Coldest

Inner Glove
There are a number of measures to help with the coldest days, those times when you really should be snuggled up next to a nice warm fire and when your camera will freeze up in a few minutes anyway. When I have to be out I will often add my light gloves for added finger protection when my mitten flaps are open. This second layer makes a big difference and still allows manipulation of the camera controls. Additionally, a hand warmer can be placed inside the glove, but these packets can make for a tight fit.



That covers my hierarchy of winter hand protection. This works for most of our New England weather, but I will finish with a request for advice. I recently saw advertisements for a glove system that seemed to be the ultimate in hand warmth and flexibility. It should be the ultimate, it costs $200!




Heat 3, The $200 ! Solution?

The Heat 3 Smart Glove starts as a well insulated half finger mitten, but the internal finger glove is built in, and with material on the finger tips compatible

Heat 3
with touch screen control. The glove has a long wrist cover and a straps to keep the gloves controlled when removed. I especially like the straps on the internal glove fingers which should make it easier to remove without turning the fingers inside out, a constant problem for me. Finally, for added warmth, the gloves have pouches design to fit hand warmers, but the pouches could also be a convenient place to stow a lens cloth or keys. These gloves were developed for the German and Austrian Special Forces, but, in addition to their value in shooting a assault weapon, they seem to be perfect for winter photography. This is about as positive as I can get without having actually tried the things. The reviews have all been quite glowing and, unless I get an urgent notice from someone out there about a fatal flaw, I'm ordering these guys. I'll let you know how they work out.
Monadnock, Cold & Distant

It was below zero when I started working on this article and it was below zero again when I finished, but with the the options available bitter cold is no excuse for hiding at home, with both you and your camera cowering in the corner.  It reminds me of the mantra for our rainy Alaskan trip this fall and, with only slight modification, it remains true; "There is no such thing as too cold, just inappropriate dress.

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com


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