Cold weather photography, what do you need to know? Being from the middle of the country in Missouri our temperatures get down to about zero during the coldest times of the year. When preparing to go to Fairbanks, Alaska in the beginning of January I began researching the temperatures to see what I would need to do for my gear.
To start, one thing I have learned while shooting in cold weather is that batteries get depleted and go dead much faster. I always keep spare batteries on me and usually in an inside pocket so my body heat can keep the batteries warm and they stay fully charged.
- Lens + Sensor:
Next, I know that with taking my gear from a warm temperature to a cold temperature that the potential for my lens and sensor fogging up is greater. Usually the sensor won’t fog if a lens is already on the camera body, but if the lens is not on the camera body then your sensor could fog. A good way to ensure that you do not have this issue is to have your camera and lens connected, and then set your bag with them in the environment you are going to shoot in. This will help with the adjustment to the temperature so by the time you shoot the lens fog has gone away. If you plan to stay out in the cold weather for a long time then you may want to get a rubber band and some hand warmers to help warm the elements in your lens. After shooting outside in the cold weather for instance 30 minutes in -30F degree temperatures a lens can automatically stop focusing due to cold weather. So with the hand warmers this keeps your lens warm so it functions properly. You can also use camera wraps and rain covers to help keep them dry. These work well if you want to go out and shoot in the snow.
With being a landscape photographer, using a tripod for me is key. I was in Alaska in the middle of January and my tripod froze up on me. This happens due to the expansion and contraction of the different parts of the tripod as well as a little bit of moisture build up I got on it because of setting it in the snow. Just remember if you have an aluminum tripod or some other sort of metal tripod that when it is extremely cold out gloves may not keep your hands warm when carrying the tripod. Try to use a tripod bag or a sling to carry it. Also remember that with carbon fiber tripods the extreme cold weather can make them brittle and they can snap so be extra careful when using those.
- Gear Bag:
Having a good gear bag to keep your gear secure and dry is key. I carry a Mindshift Gear FirstLight 30L backpack with me and it does a great job. I rode over 45 miles on a snow machine and it was covered in snow and frost, but my gear was completely dry and secured.
- Treat Your Gear as Your Body:
One of the major things is to treat your camera and gear as you would your body. Remember that if you are getting cold then your gear is getting cold. Extreme cold temperatures like -50F degrees can cause anything to break without notice, so be sure when you are done using your gear you take it indoors with you. Because you don’t need to be without your gear on an epic adventure.
These are a few key things that I have found while shooting in the cold weather. There are a ton of variations that will work and everyone has their own little ways about doing things. Before you go out be sure to do your research and ensure your safety and the safety of your equipment!
Watch the Alaska Trip in Action!
Daniel Berry is the current President of the Missouri Professional Photographers Association and runs Daniel Berry Photography. He works full time as a paramedic for the University of Missouri Ambulance Service in Columbia, Missouri. In 2008 he picked up his first DSLR camera. From there he began attending multiple conferences and workshops to get to where he is today. He has taught throughout the country at different local, state, and national events on Landscape and Astrophotography. Recently he has begun working on shooting more portraits and traveling destinations with clients to photograph their journeys. Daniel travels every chance he gets and one of his favorite places to visit anytime of year is Alaska. Be sure to follow his journeys on Instagram at @danielberryphotography.
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