Moscow’s deep winter.

My fingers are screaming, the cold bites like a small bitey thing on a biting frenzy. The realisation hits me as I struggle to change the lens on my Canon 5d MkIV, my gloves are not working. It’s -26 in the centre of Moscow.


It’s mid afternoon, I’m in my apartment in Moscow and I’m preparing to head out and test my new camera, the Canon 5d MkIV. It’s cold outside and I know I have to dress accordingly. I start with a thermal base layer, followed by a t-shirt and fleece. I then don a pair of Mountain Equipment insulated trousers, a pair of Sorel Caribou boots and my trusty North Face McMurdo parka. A hat, a scarf and gloves. I have a pair of mitts that are designed for arctic conditions, but I choose to take a pair of fleece lined gloves and glove liners instead. I stuff a thicker pair of gloves in my camera bag. Feeling like the michelin man I stride out to tackle the freezer.


At this time of the year the Moskva River is frozen and the sun is low in the sky, so I hope for some great light. It only takes me 20 minutes to walk to the spot I had in mind. Along the way I am held at pedestrian crossings, they have a countdown and the minute wait feels like forever in these conditions, drivers look at me with a mixture of Wtf and laughter as I dance to keep warm. I have three lenses with me, a Canon 16-35mm f2.8, a Canon 50mm f1.2 and a Canon 70-200mm f2.8. Starting with the wide angle I find a suitable spot and put the camera through it’s paces. Changing between manual, aperture priority and shutter priority, swapping from centre weighed to spot metering and varying the aperture on the lens. At this point, I’ve been at it for about 40 minutes, the only part of that is cold are my fingers. I’m now struggling to change settings on the camera.


I notice that further down stream steam is rising from the river, I presume because of the difference between water and air temperatures. I walk along the river. There are not many people out and about, those I do see are wrapped up, Russians like to wear furs. Fur is the best material to keep you warm, it has fantastic heat retaining properties. For obvious reasons the wearing of fur in West is frowned upon, it’s certainly not the case here.


Further along the river I find a great spot where the steam is being backlit by the low sun, the colours are lovely and the camera and 70-200mm make it easy to exploit. The pre-processed images on the back of the camera look beautiful. Now I’ve been out for a couple of hours, happy that I have tested the camera and lenses in sub zero conditions, also tested my clothing its time to head back.


Whilst the camera produced some lovely images I did notice that the top LCD panel did struggle to display all the information, LCD screens are known for freezing in extreme cold, so it wasn’t a surprise. The LCD on the back of camera worked fine. All the functions of the camera worked as normal and even the battery worked for the two and bit hours, only showing a low battery warning as I was on my way home. Fingers in tact, I arrive home and excited at the prospect of seeing what I have shot, a feeling that never gets old.

16 thoughts on “Moscow’s deep winter.”

  1. I saw a man breezily walking in a flimsy sports jacket and with no hat at all. He said he wasn’t bothered by this fresh air. And another one in a cap. The shade of his face would be of use to you if you’d still done the bw printing the old way. But I think it’s to a very large degree down to what you are accustomed to, not your wardrobe.

  2. Beautiful photos. They do make foot warmers for shoes and hand warmers to put in your jacket pockets. They are available in the U.S. but I don’t know about Russia. Despite your frozen fingers, you did a great job.

  3. Congratulations on your new camera! Beautiful impressions from a cold corner of the world.
    I miss the winter in Norway right now. It’s much too warm, not a trace of snow, the warmest winter in 60 years!

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