A vital piece of photo gear you didn’t know you need – especially in winter

by Nick Kelsh

posted Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 12:12 PM EST


I want to make an addition to my master list of things to carry in your camera bag—or at least in the trunk of your car. First a couple of anecdotes.

A couple of winters ago I went for a walk in the woods alone after a fresh snowfall. It was a bit icy and everything was covered with that gorgeous layer of shiny ice-glass. I was wearing my expensive hiking boots carrying a few thousand dollars worth of camera equipment. I was totally ready.

Ironically, I was slipping and sliding as though I were wearing loafers. Every time I wanted to step onto any kind of incline it was a life-and-death decision— okay, I exaggerate for effect. I thought to myself: this is beyond stupid. I’m walking around on ice with expensive breakable equipment and I can barely stand up. What could possibly go wrong.

Now go back a few more years to my nature photography trip to Maine. I was shooting photographs for Rachel Carson’s A Sense of Wonder. She wrote about the rugged coast of Maine and I went there to photograph it. I bought the latest greatest most wonderful camera I could get my hands on and hit the road. I was going to be taking pictures alone for one week. Heaven.

My first stop was a beautiful algae covered slab of green rock. It was stunning. I put the first roll of film into the camera and I do mean the first roll of film. This camera had never taken a photograph. Once again, I was wearing my high-end expensive hiking boots. Boy, was I ready. I stepped out onto the algae, went head over tea kettle and smashed the camera onto the rock removing the lens. And when I say “removing the lens” I mean I snapped the lens right off the camera—lens mount and all. I now own a brand new dead camera. (I had other cameras so I could continue working, but it was a low point, believe me.)

Now to my camera equipment list addition. For about fifteen dollars you can buy some little stretchy shoe enhancers that have spikes on them and allow you to walk on anything slippery. You could easily walk across an ice skating rink with these things—almost run. Like I said, they’re inexpensive and incredibly useful. I’m not saying I would keep these in my camera bag all the time, but they are not only useful in the winter but can be very helpful in the slimy summer, too.

Yes, they look dorky. But so does a new camera with a gaping hole in the front that’s not supposed to be there. If I had been thinking, I would have recommended this as a great gift for any photographer at Christmas. Maybe you know a photographer whose birthday’s coming up. Or maybe your birthday is coming up! Or maybe you don’t need a good reason to do something that’s a really good idea.

Yes, you can also wear them to shovel your walk.

(An exceptional educator and a world-class photographer, Nick Kelsh is the founder of How To Photograph Your Life, an excellent source of affordable photography training and tips. Nick’s courses can be conducted by yourself in your own time, or with feedback from Nick and your fellow students. If you appreciated this article and want to improve your photography, visit How to Photograph your Life and sign up for a course today!)