If you have have ever had the opportunity to experience cold weather photography, you know that it can be just that… An experience. Condensation, cold fingers, cold batteries, etc. can play havoc with your shoot. As a Northern Michigan Photographer, I’ve had more than my share of cold shoots and survived to tell the tale. Adequate preparation is the key and with a few upticks in your equipment bag your shoot will be successful. I’ve outlined the basics below.
Gloves With Removable Fingertips – Your extremities are the first to get cold and for me it’s my fingers. Cold weather photography requires the use of high quality thin gloves with temporarily removable fingertips. I don’t care how cold it is, shooting with heavy winter gloves on is difficult even for an experienced northern michigan photographer. I’ve heard people say “practice using your camera inside with your gloves on” so that you are comfortable doing so outside. Really..? I’ve tried that and for me it doesn’t work. What does work are gloves which have fingertips that open up which allow you to shoot and then close again encompassing your fingers in warmth.
Warm Boots – Another obvious, although equally as important item. My feet are the second thing to get cold and a quality pair of lightweight, insulated boots is the key. If you wear Sorels or a larger type book, consider buying small one time use heat packs to put inside.
Cover Tripod Legs – When it’s really cold your tripod legs will seem like ice cubes and can quickly suck the heat out of your hands even when using good quality gloves. The best thing you can do for yourself in a cold weather photography situation is to have a set of tripod leg wraps. Typically they are only long enough to cover the lower end of your tripod, however, are a lifesaver. I purchased a decent pair several years ago and as a northern michigan photographer I can vouch for their value. The wraps also keep the cold metal off your shoulder, if carrying the tripod, and fingers when adjusting the poles.
Desiccant And Sealy Bag – Condensation is your enemy on a very cold day. Bringing your cold camera into a warm house or car can cause condensation to form. One very effective preventative step you can take is to carry sealy bags for your camera bodies and lenses. BEFORE you enter a warm area, put your camera in one and lens in another bag. Put several small desiccant packs in the bags to keep the interior dry. Using this method will keep the equipment dry and any condensation will form on the outside of the bag.
Multiple Batteries – Batteries drain down substantially faster in a cold environment. I have learned that carrying multiple batteries, in my jacket next to my hopefully warm body will allow them to retain their charge much longer. When you change a cold battery for a warm battery, put the cold one in a different area so you don’t confuse used from fresh batteries.
Breath Away From Lenses – This one is big… It’s important to breath away from your camera on an extremely cold day. Turn our head to breath, cough, talk, etc. If your relatively warm breath comes in contact with your lens it will likely immediately freeze and say goodbye to shooting for awhile. I’ve had it happen to me particularly on days that are cold and also very calm calm and it is maddening to say the least. I’ve gotten better about turning my head, however, in the heat of the moment it is easy to forget.
Those are the basics of cold weather photography although there are always ways to improve. If you have any tricks or suggestions, please let me know.
Rebel Miles Photography
“Just Being Yourself Is A Successful Rebellion…”
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