It is over 60 degrees outside, on Christmas Eve. SO what better way to deal with this totally incongruous weather than by talking about preparation for shooting in the the cold and snow that will inevitably come any day now, please!
|Not Much Like December
So, with great optimism, here goes a brief list of winter photography necessities. Now that the wrapping paper has been cleared away, I can lay it all out on the dinning room table, My first blog post back in 2007 was about winter photography in New England, but hopefully, after eight years of shivering experience, I can add a little more to the discussion.
I can start with the obvious. It is very hard to devote the time and care required to photograph the beautiful snow if you are miserably cold, and your hands and feet are numb. I am a strong believer in over dressing for the cold. It is much easier to shed a layer or open a jacket if the temperature rises, but it is much harder to find warmth when you are in the elements. I usually go out with at least 3-4 layers of clothing including a warm jacket, sweat shirt, and my favorite, a fleece shirt. For leg warmth I have a lovely pair of fleece lined jeans. A warm hat with ample ear coverage is critical along with a scarf or neck warmer to arrange around my face and neck.
|Heat 3 Smart Goves
Warm, waterproof boots are also a necessity and I always carry an extra pair of socks in my car emergency kit. For deeper snow I have my knee length Overshoe Boots and pair of snow shoes.
Keeping my power dependent digital cameras running in the deep cold is a major challenge. The primary issue is battery power. Camera batteries loose power quickly in the extreme cold. The first thing is to carry at least one fully charged back-up battery, keeping it warm in a pocket close to your body. When a battery dies in the cold it can often be revived after some time in a warm pocket. It can also help to keep the camera warm in a bag enclosed with a pocket warmer.
Although, in the winter, we seldom have to protect the camera from the rain, frozen precipitation can be a problem and when the snow is coming down I protect the camera with a towel draped over the body. A lens cloth is also helpful to clear condensation from the lens.
When moving from the cold to the warm moist indoor air, condensation can quickly form on the surface of the camera and lens. More damaging, the moisture can penetrate the interior mechanisms and electronics. As impatient as I may be to see my new winter images I always allow the camera to warm in a closed plastic bag and since the condensation appears quickly, I try to remember to bag the camera before I go inside. The problem can also strike the lens in your camera bag, so it is a good idea to seal the bag in its own plastic container.
Check your tripod manual and you will discover that tripods are generally not approved for the extreme cold. I've never had a problem with either my Manfroto or Gitzo sticks, but I still lubricate the poles with a granite lubricant which should stand up to the low temperatures. Just be careful how you move the tripod when the leg are deep in crusted snow. It is possible to snap off a leg when it is encased in ice.
In the winter my car is my life raft offering refuge from the snow and numbing cold, but since I am usually bouncing in and out of the vehicle I try to avoid the temptation to keep the temperature cranked way up. I want to limit the difference in temperatures to which my gear is exposed. The car can be comfortable and sheltered from the wind, but it needn't be a sauna.
Since I take my car to some rather remote locations it should go without saying that it needs to be prepared for the elements. I check the antifreeze, make sure there is adequate tread on the tires and I try to keep at least a half tank of gas on-board at all times. Other emergency gear includes a shovel, sand and a emergency blanket. Obviously the cell phone needs to have a good charge, and I carry back-up battery, but it's important not to depend on being able to call for help, since the signal can be poor in many of my favorite spots.
- Winter Photography in New England
- Winter Gloves, Getting a Grip on the Cold
- Heat 3 Smart Glove, Optimal Cold Weather Photography Glove ??
- Winter on the Top of New England, Dealing with Winter on the Summit of Mt Washington