Winter has finally arrived. We all seem to wish for year long summer but the winter months offer some great and unique moments to capture. The Northern Lights will reach peak activity during the winter, the snow offers some amazing landscape and family photos and we still have a lot of outdoor activities to participate in. But the cold can complicate your plans on capturing the right photo. Here are some things you can do to help make sure the winter cold doesn't dampen your photo taking experience.
It seems like it goes without saying but.......dress warm. You wouldn't want to miss a great moment of your kids playing outside in the snow, the Northern Lights dancing or a great finale to a New Years fireworks display because you got too cold. Gloves, touque, boots, socks and layers are essential for having to stand around and wait for that moment.
While the bag won't do a lot to prevent the cold from reaching your camera, it will help to make sure that it stays clean and out of the elements. Falling snow, thrown snow and setting your camera down in the who all mean that moisture will get to your camera. A bag will also free up your hands when there is some down time to warm them up. If you have a big enough jacket you can also try using a camera strap and keeping your camera warm and out of the elements under your jacket. If you are activity in your layers however go with the bag as keeping the camera in a warm humid setting under your jacket may lead to additional moisture on your camera.
If you have a spare battery or two make sure they are fully charged prior to heading out and make sure you keep them warm. Cold weather will discharge your battery quickly as they get colder. A simple way to combat this is to keep the batteries in your pant pockets or in a pocket of an inside layer. Having your batteries lifeless before you get the shot you were looking for will be a huge disappointment. If you have exhausted a battery you may be able to warm that battery up and get a few more shots. If you are out looking at taking long exposure photos of the Northern Lights or video of that epic snowball fight, keep in mind that your battery will normally discharge quickly in these settings, the cold will simply make them drain even quicker.
Airtight Plastic Bag
You will need a plastic bag you can seal that is big enough for your camera and lens or a bag for camera body and a bag for your lens or lenses. The plastic bag will be a life saver for your camera gear coming in from the cold. While you are still in the cold, remove your memory card and battery and place the camera and lens into the airtight plastic bag. As the camera warms up, the condensation will form on the outside of the bag and not on the camera. This will take time so plan on having your camera and lens in a bag for a couple of hours. Electronics and moisture do not get along, a plastic bag could very well save your equipment.
Plastic and Glass
Take care in handling your camera gear while in the cold. Freezing temperatures can make plastic and glass more susceptible to cracking or breaking. So be careful to bump your lens or open a memory card or battery compartment door with too much force.
Some other quick tips;
- Don't blow on your lens or camera to remove any dust. This will just add moisture to your gear. Use a small brush or lens cloth to remove the dust.
- If you are using a tripod with metal legs try to grab the tripod while wearing gloves and not a warm sweaty hand. If you are in the market for a tripod and envision yourself doing a lot of cold weather shooting look at purchasing a carbon fibre tripod. They are lightweight, durable and not metal.
- While shooting in the night I've used a touque to cover the eye piece on the camera to avoid stray light potentially getting in and ruining a shot. A toque or scarf could also be used to keep falling snow off of a camera that isn't weather sealed.