The worst weather often produces some of the best photographs. While the rest of the population is huddled under a blanket, by the fireplace with a big cup of coffee, you’re ready to head out with your camera and capture the wonder created by that blizzard and sub-zero temperatures. However misery does tend to dampen creativity—so how do you stay warm enough to actually enjoy shooting frozen landscapes? Besides that, how do you protect your camera from the cold and keep it functioning so that cold hike wasn’t for nothing? Here are seven ways to stay warm and keep your gear functioning this winter.
Okay, so this tip is on a lot of lists, but it makes such a big difference. While planning ahead is a great way to anticipate getting better shots in the right light with the right gear, planning ahead will help you stay warm too. If you scout out your location on a warmer day, you can spend less time exploring in the cold. You’ll be able to adjust your settings quicker, and get inside to that warm cup of hot cocoa that much faster.
Find the right kind of gloves
Gloves are key for staying comfortable during a cold photo session. Gloveless, and you’ll be pretty miserable, but the wrong kind of gloves will leave you fumbling with the controls and unable to access the settings you need. The trick is to find the type of gloves that work for you. Fingerless gloves are great for photography because they keep most of the hand warm while allowing for easy adjustments. Some photographers instead prefer to use gloves with touch pads on the fingers, especially when using a touchscreen camera. Another option is using a remote release inside of a pair of mittens. There’s no wrong choice, but finding gloves that keep you comfortable for your style of shooting is important.
Besides the gloves, the rest of your clothing for winter photography isn’t much different than staying warm outdoors for another activity. Ideally, you should wear layers that can be added or removed so you are comfortable. Lots of hiking in the snow will generate more body heat, so you may want to remove layers while hiking out to your location, then put them back on as you are moving around less to take the shots.
Be wary of fog
Cold enough to see your breath? You can actually capture that fog in your photos if you aren’t careful. You may need to hold your breath while the shutter is open, or use a tripod and a remote release. Going from warm to cool temperatures quickly will also cause your lenses to fog, so you may need a few moments to clear your lenses before you can start shooting.
Keep your camera battery warm
Cameras don’t like the cold either. Many cameras will fail to function if the temperatures are too cold. This is usually because the battery becomes too cold to perform. To prevent getting to your location only to have a frozen battery, keep your camera battery in an inside pocket, close to your body heat. The cold also causes the battery life to drain much faster, so bring a spare, even if you don’t typically need one, and keep that one warm too.
Bring a dry rag and rain gear
If you are shooting while the snow is falling, protect your camera just like you would during a rainstorm, especially if it is a particularly heavy snowfall. Keep your camera covered as much as possible, and use a camera rain cover in blizzard-like conditions. It’s also a good idea to bring a dry rag to keep the front of your lens clean and dry and brush off any snow that may stick there. Using the lens hood can also help keep snow off the front of your lens.
Take extra precautions before packing
Don’t pack your camera up right away. That same fog you see on your lens when entering the warmth after being in the cold can accumulate on the delicate parts inside your camera too. To avoid condensation on the inside of your gear, put your camera and lens in a sealed baggie, like a Ziplock, to keep out condensation. Allow a few hours for the camera to return to room temperature before taking it out of the bag and putting it away. Be sure to brush off any snow on the exterior as well. And the next time you see those little silica gel packs that come when you buy a new pair of shoes, save them and stick them inside your camera bag to help absorb any possible condensation.
Winter creates some amazing scenes that are certainly worth of being captured on camera. But the cold can be hard on both the photographer and the camera. Plan ahead to minimize your time in the cold. Find a good pair of gloves that still allow you to access your camera, and wear layers that you can add or remove as needed. Keep your camera battery warm and keep a spare warm inside your pocket too. Be careful that your photos aren’t foggy from your breath. Protect your camera with rain gear in heavy snow and be sure to pack your camera away dry and at room temperature.