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GNW Luxe cashmere merino wool sweater, Gucci chain printed scarf, Max Mara orange skirt, GNW tight, smoky quartz bracelet, Söfft shearling booties and Hermes collier de chien cuff (all own)

Taking style photos in the Arctic in winter is not just a light issue. In the Arctic or at high altitude, temperature and ice fog add additional challenges. Read on to learn more about both challenges, and how to minimize the impacts.

  1. Dark Days in Alaska Make Photography an Art
  2. Short Daylight Hours Reduce the Window for Shots
  3. Why Do Photos Get Blurry in Winter?
  4. The Camera Gets the Ambient Temperature
  5. Batteries Suffer from the Cold
  6. Flashes Produce Odd Shadows in the Dark
  7. Perception of the Arctic Being a Place without Fashion
  8. Conclusions on Taking Outfit Photos in the Arctic


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Dark Days in Alaska Make Photography an Art

Taking outfit photos at this time a year at 64.8569° N, 147.8028° W is quite a challenge. Thus, we try to take them inside or in lighted places outside when possible. In these photos, I like the reflection of the outfit in the glass of the storm door. It makes a nice interesting mix with what can be seen in the dark of the front yard.

Note in Fairbanks, you actually don’t need storm doors to protect from the wind, but to have some extra insulation. Without them you would get ice build-up on the inside of the door at 30 below (-34.4°C) or so.

Back to the subject: Why is it so hard to take outside photos in the Arctic?

Short Daylight Hours Reduce the Window for Shots

On December 21, the shortest day of the year, the Sun rises at 10:58 am and sets at 2:39 pm. In total there are 3 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. However, the Sun is not high in the sky. See for instance the photo of the winter solstice in Fairbanks in this post. The Sun rises at 155o and sets at 205o, i.e. approximately between SE and SSE, and SSW and SW, respectively. In other words, the light conditions are not great. On a sunny day – due to the long path that the sun beams take thru the atmosphere – the light is pink in Alaska in winter. Pretty kitschy, right?

Currently, we loose 10 minutes of daylight each day! Living in the dark!


mature woman in styled outerwear
Example how the low light winter daytime conditions make it challenging to capture the colors of an outfit. Outfit details: Cole Haan burgundy shearling coat with white, black and burgundy mélange yarn DIY long scarf, black beret, Loft dark blue boot-cut jeans, and black Salamander booties.


Why Do Photos Get Blurry in Winter?

When the camera was inside in a room, the air in the camera has the same humidity as in the room. Once outside the camera cools fast. The saturation point for water vapor may be reached and the lens inside may get foggy. It’s sort of the opposite to when you enter a store and your glasses get foggy. In the store, the cold lenses cool air close to them which then reaches the saturation point. Once the lenses adjust to store temperature your glasses are clear again.

Facit: You have to wait until the temperature is adjusted before you can take a photo in the Arctic.


The Camera Gets the Ambient Temperature

Another challenge is the zeroth law of thermodynamics. It says that any object strives to achieve be in equilibrium temperature with its environment. Of course, a camera also adjusts to its ambient temperature. This fact has two major impacts. At temperatures below -4F (-20°C) the photographers fingers get pretty cold. The model has to pretend not to feel cold.

Arctic fashion blogger Nicole presenting an office look with red orange scarf, winter heels and tights

outfit photo taken inside zooming in on the print and necklace

snapshot of the back view of a color wheel inspired work outfit photo in the Arctic

mature blogger combining neutrals with a pop of color
Outfit details: GNW Luxe top, Gucci scarf, Max Mara bottom, GNW opaque tight (worn over pantyhose to stay warm), Söfft boots, smoky quartz bracelet, and Hermes collier de chien bangle


Batteries Suffer from the Cold

The time between being able to use the flash takes forever as the battery gets cold and starts freezing. When you enter a room with a camera cooled down to those outside conditions, condensation occurs inside the camera. Sometimes even little ice particles form. The consequence? Guess what? Blurry photos! I can’t believe that some people want that on purpose and even use filters to get the effect! In the sub-Arctic you get it for free when you don’t pay attention.

Never let the camera be outside for a long time in Alaska. Click To Tweet


Flashes Produce Odd Shadows in the Dark

The photo series below was taken when the sky still was dark black (see photo below). Not even an aurora threw a little light. The shadows produced by the flash light created interesting shading. I bet it would take me hours to create an effect like that in Photoshop. LOL 😉


showing the shadows produced when using a flash for an outfit photo in the Arctic
Weird shadows from flash light. Outfit details: Ann Taylor floral tweed skirt worn with denim shirt, navy blue blazer, Longchamp pliage bag, heeled ducks, and brown tights for a work appropriate look


Ice Fog Becomes Visible when You Use the Flash Light

That white cloud in the background of the photos below looks impressive. What happened here is that its droplets and ice crystals reflected the light of the flash when we took my outfit photo below. In the second photo, my photographer just hit the button when I was standing in the ice fog.  See the High Latitude Style glossary for how ice fog forms.


outfit photo in winter outerwear hidden within seconds by ice fog
This photo shows ice fog. Even at calm winds (<0.5 m/s), it moves, and can cover the outfit that you just saw a second below in front of the ice fog.  Outfit details: Striped coat, vintage hat, LeatherCoatsEtc red gloves, GNW tights and Manolo Blahnik booties and leopard print Michael Kors satchel.



Perception of the Arctic Being a Place without Fashion

Many people disbelieve that being an Alaskan style blogger is possible temperature and shopping wise. Did they never hear about online stores? Well, you can even buy high-end fashion just here at the Last Frontier when you are lucky. I scored the Gucci scarf in a consignment store for just $20! Pretty lucky! Well, one woman’s trash, is another’s treasure. 😉

A statement scarf is always a good idea. #timelessstyle Click To Tweet


Conclusions on Taking Outfit Photos in the Arctic

In summary, some of the great iPhone photo and posing tips that Scott Kelby explained in his book won’t work, because you freeze your boom off when posing takes too long. You have to ensure that the camera is warm enough to function without fog buildup, and plan the poses prior to getting out.  See my review of The iPhone Photography Book.

Want style solutions for all kind of dressing situations? Buy my style recipe book How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Give yourself the gift of style.

How do you come up with your outfits? Where do you take your inspirations from? What inspires you?

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Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2021 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Hi, Nicole
    You must be amazingly organized to be ready to shoot at the perfect time of day for lighting! This post is really enlightening. (Loll! No pun intended.)
    Thanks, Angie

  2. Liz

    Thank you so much for sharing my outfit <3 Loved this post! I had no idea about the challenges of shooting int he extreme cold. You are doing amazing!


  3. Jodie

    I would have thought about the cold to a person, and the little time of light, but never about the fact that the extreme cold is hard on the camera. You do such an amazing job, Nicole!

  4. shelbeeontheedge1

    Oh wow, Nicole! Less than 4 hours of daylight? I don’t think I could handle it! I thought it was bad here with less than 9 hours of daylight…I just want to be in pajamas when it’s dark! I am loving your red skirt outfit and that beautiful Gucci scarf!


  5. nifty50girl4237

    Thank you for sharing life in Alaska during the winter. I find it so interesting all the struggles you go thru to take a pic due to the lack of light and cold during the winter.