Photography 101: Five Tips For Dealing With The Cold Weather

As much as it may pain many of us who live in northern climates, the cold weather is finally settling in for the long haul. This time often comes with great opportunities to capture gorgeous snow and ice photos. It also means a little extra care needs to be taken with your camera while you are out in these freezing temperatures. Before you embark on trudging through giant snowdrifts for that perfect pine tree photo, follow a few items to help keep your camera happy.

1. Batteries despise the cold. Batteries may provide you power, but they tend to go on strike in the cold. If you do not have extra batteries for your camera, now is the perfect time to invest in one spare at the minimum. The cold is hard on batteries. You can loose as much as 50% of your normal shooting life while shooting in the frigid temperatures.

There are a few things you can do to help extend battery life while out in the cold. The first is to keep your spare batteries close to your body. This at least keeps them close to body temperature. The second thing you can do is use those hand warming packs and wrap them around your batter compartment. This has a side benefit of helping to keep your camera warm. You are not looking to get things sweltering hot, but any bit of warmth is going to be beneficial when it is -10 outside.

2. LCD screens also despise the cold. As the temperatures drop, so does the functionality of your LCD. Your LCD screens can become extremely slow, inaccurate in color, or just not function all together when you are out in the cold. This means you have to account for a few things. Know approximately what setting you will be shooting with, and then set them before you leave the warmth of your car/home. LCDs going on strike in the cold also mean they may not show colors correctly.

Another issue with LCDs and the cold is how much the two will team up and destroy your battery life. The harder your LCD has to work to try to show you information, the more juice it is going to pull off your battery. Ultimately, this can turn an all day shooting event into a matter of mere minutes. If you have any doubts on your LCD screen and the cold, consult your camera manufacturer to see their recommended operating temperatures.

3. Snow is pretty until it melts. Snow is an amazing thing. It looks so lovely coating trees, bushes, landmarks, and various other items in a pristine blanket of white. The issue is that blanket of sparkly white melts into destructive water. Water mixed with many cameras/lenses do not mix well.

First piece of advice, use a dang camera strap. You can help control the security of your camera, but you cannot control gravity. Dropping a camera in snow can be very detrimental. Second nibble of advice, plan for falling snow. This doesn’t mean just looking to the cloudy sky either. If you are going to be crawling through objects covered in snow, your body can break that snow loose, and you and your gear end up covered in cold white stuff. Last piece of advice concerns your feet. Do not wear sneakers to hike through a field covered in feet of snow. Wet socks, cold toes is just dang uncomfortable. Dress to your shooting conditions so you can stay out as long as you can.

4. You are warm, your camera is cold. Despite the snotcicles forming from your nose, your body is still generating heat. Sadly, your camera does not share the same heat generation that you do. This means when you pull that camera to your face, the heat radiating from you is going to cause some fogging. Your eye piece may be good for a shot or two before it becomes so fogged up it is rendered useless.

How do you combat this fogging? The easiest way is to use a tripod and remote control. Setup, align your shot, and then trigger the camera from a remote. Don’t have a remote, use the camera self-timer. If you are like me and do a majority of your shooting in hand there is a trick I have learned that works well. I bought a winter coat that is one size to big just for cold weather shooting. As I walk around, I keep the camera inside my coat. This helps to keep the camera warm, as well as offering a bit of protection. It also means I have to wear an extra layer to combat that constant cold camera entering my bubble of warmth.

5. Warm up before processing. You may have some spectacular shots, and you may be super stoked to share those shots. Hold off a bit here though. Your camera is cold and needs a bit of time to warm up. Memory cards work much better when they are warm and not coated in condensation from the temperature change. Take this time to warm yourself up. Sit by the fire and reflect on your day, suck down a warm beverage, or just take a nice warm shower. I guarantee you that your camera gear will thank you for this bit of a warming break.

Now get out there and start shooting. Just because it is cold, it is no excuse to get cabin fever and stop shooting images. Remember layers keep you warm outdoors, and hot cocoa is always a good decision when you are waiting for your camera to warm back up after an outdoor photo session.

A little something to get you thinking about winter shooting:

This is where you would expect me to tell you about my life, how awesome I am, or why I am so superior to other people in this line of business. I would enjoy telling you how I have wrestled grizzly bears 10 feet tall. Maybe you would like hearing how I have taken on Velociraptors in my days as a young man. Even better is the story how I have traveled to the furthest reaches of space to stop catastrophic alien invasions. The problem will be that you might not believe my awesome stories.

I will keep these awesome stories for the campfire though. I’m just a man, taking pictures, trying to make a living. I ditched my education in computers in favor of pursuing my passion for photography. I enjoy a good cold beer on a warm day. I have a fondness of the outdoors.. I have enjoyed years capturing life’s unscripted moments. Hopefully, I can enjoy many more years of slacking off without fear of those grizzlies taking me out before my time.

My Philosophy is to capture those non-scripted moments. To capture the little details that this world really has to offer. From weddings to insects, I enjoy capturing the life, the details, and the moments that come and go in a flash.

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