Monday, January 31, 2011

Paramo Outdoor Gear

I've been using Paramo outdoor gear for about a year now, and I'm suitably impressed. Paramo take a slightly different approach to most other outdoor gear manufacturers, claiming that their garments are analogous to animal skin or fur and provide class-leading levels of breathability.

I have to say, at first, I was not that impressed by my first purchase, the Cascada waterproof trousers, as I found them unbearably warm. After a while though, I realised I didn't need to wear thermals underneath in cold conditions, and that the full length ventilation zips do really work well - if you remember to use them! Once you've adjusted to the warmth, you soon realise that these are excellent - hard-wearing, very waterproof, articulated, breathable (provided you use the zips) and priced competitively with similar products. Not the most stylish bit of gear, but bear in mind if you shop online with Naturally Paramo, they sometimes offer different colour-ways than are available through Paramo dealers.

A year on, and these have been joined by a Halcon jacket. These are expensive, and a little heavier than, say, a Goretex jacket, but once you factor in Paramo's reputation for longevity, and the fact you don't need to wear as much underneath, it doesn't look so bad. Get your under-garments right and you have a great waterproof that won't leave you soaked with sweat. The Halcon is Paramo's top-of-the-line jacket, and offers a fantastic range of pockets for filters, lens caps, shutter releases and even lenses.

Underneath the Halcon, I have a Mountain Vent shirt. This is made from a reversible fabric, meant to be worn next to the skin, and is cut a little closer than a normal fleece. Worn with the fleece-like surface inwards, it offers warmth, but reverse it and the smooth face against the skin helps to keep you cool. There are also zips for ventilation at the front of the armpits, which correspond with those in the Halcon and some other Paramo jackets.

The fourth and final element is a Torres gilet, worn over the Mountain vent shirt when conditions are colder. It's quite thin and light, but seems to offer good insulation without bulk (it even packs down into one of it's own pockets). If you prefer, you could order your gilet in a larger size and choose to wear it over your waterproof jacket.

For me, just these four garments seem to cope well with most UK conditions. I would still choose a down jacket for winter sunrises, but for just about everything else the Paramo system really seems to work, with the right layers underneath.

Here's a couple of buying tips: first off the RSPB often have good members offers in their magazine (my Torres gilet was free when I ordered my Halcon jacket); second Paramo have their own outlet store, Paramo Extras, on ebay. I bought my Mountain Vent shirt through the latter at about a third off the retail price (accepting that it was an obsolete colour and made from a very slightly heavier fabric than the current garment). Oh, and as mentioned above if you buy direct from Naturally Paramo, you may get more colour choices.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Fujifilm X100

Available in the spring, this looks like a very nice camera for the enthusiast. I've mentioned it before, but the price worries me, as at £700 (estimated), I think it's too steep. I'd probably suggest a budget digital SLR with a compact prime lens like the Nikon 35mm AF-S G DX f/1.8 would be a better and cheaper option.

In fact you could squeeze a budget DSLR, kit zoom lens and a digital compact out of that budget, if you really needed the portability.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Photo Logistics

I've been planning a bit of a photo getaway, just me, a couple of cameras and a bunch of top locations. Trouble is, where to stay? What I want from my accommodation on these personal trips is comfortable convenience. Although a hotel might seem to offer the most in the way of convenience, I don't want to be tied down to particular meal times.

Most hotels here in the UK seem to offer breakfast between 7 and 9am. Well, this time of year I probably want to be out by 7 or thereabouts, and I am unlikely to be back by 9. And, I don't want the distraction of having to be back for breakfast by a particular time, I want to concentrate on photography, not bacon and eggs!

Self-catering solves this problem, but I don't want to spend too much time preparing food (except after dark in the evening). For this reason, whilst remote locations appeal, finding somewhere with a pub, restaurant or cafe nearby is not a bad idea.

Camping is great, as suggested here, but to be honest camping in prolonged winter weather can often descend into a drudge of what the British Army calls 'admin', i.e. the need to keep things dry, to keep warm, to keep yourself and equipment clean, etc. These are all distractions that I just don't need, and can easily sap your morale and make it difficult to motivate yourself for photography.

I'm keeping an eye on the weather, and likely will book self-catering at a few days notice. Load up the car with groceries (no point in spending too much time in the supermarket whilst on location) and off I'll go.