Heading out, camera in hand into the frigid -30°C doesn’t appeal to everyone, but to me temperatures like that means its clear and the stars (& hopefully Aurora) can look breathtaking! Its my element. Capturing beautiful moments in nature doesn’t always happen in ideal conditions. Photographers brave the elements regularly to capture some of nature’s remarkable moments. Some of these moments also include crazy cold temperatures, especially here in Canada. So being prepared not only helps you stay more comfortable, it can increase the quality of your shots!
Here are a few things you can do for Cold Weather Photography:
This might seem obvious, but it is very important to dress in layers. Merino wool is my favorite for layering in the cold. When you are outside standing by a camera for hours, you don’t want the cold to ruin the moment. When you bring layers its also important to take them off when you are heating up, if you are hiking or riding in a car you need to take layers off so that you don’t start to sweat. Having an outer layer that can stand up to the wind is very important, in the cold the wind decreases the temperature more than you might expect. Being conscious of your body temperature is key. Don’t forget to cover your head, hands and feet well, those are always the first parts to get cold. A good pair of gloves is necessary, being able to operate your camera while never exposing your skin requires a good pair of gloves, a worth while investment. I highly recommend the layering system gloves from The Heat Company, they are the best winter photography gloves I’ve found.
There are several different styles of heat packs you can use to warm you up out in the cold. I’ve tried all types of warmers. The disposable single use ones get really toasty warm, it seems wasteful but they honestly work. Again, I use packs from The Heat Company. Open them up about 15 minutes before heading out to the cold. There are also reusable ones that require you to boil them after use, these are alright in a pinch but don’t get as hot for long enough for me. There are also rechargeable battery hand warmers, which I find great if it isn’t to cold, but I find mine just can’t keep up in extreme temperatures. When its extremely cold I will have a heat pack in each glove, in my boots and camera bag.
When you come inside out of the extreme weather, your camera will instantly form condensation. I always put my gear in an air tight ziploc bag before coming inside. Or at the very least, keep your camera bag closed when you come inside. This slows the rate at which the gear warms up, stopping the excessive build up of moisture directly on the camera. Also in the cold weather you can’t expect camera batteries to last long, so keep stocked on charged batteries! If you have an Iphone, they shut down at the first sight of barely even any cold temperatures, as frustrating as it is, I keep it in in a sock with a constant heat pad on it to keep it functional.
Be Prepared & Do Your Research
Anytime you are out in extreme conditions, you need to be prepared for the worst. Check the weather and wind conditions so you know what to expect. Researching the area you will be is a good way to prepare. Knowing if there will be cell service or shelter nearby in case of emergencies is helpful. I always keep a kit in my vehicle that includes things like a blanket, shovel, candle, first aid kit and extra layers. I highly recommend looking into a satellite communication device if you spend a lot of time out of cell range, this is something I will be getting soon and looking forward to the security it brings.
Cold weather photography is not for everyone, but if you are up for the challenge and looking to capture unique landscapes or nightscapes, it can be a rewarding journey!