Photographing in Cold Weather Conditions

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It’s minus 40 degrees with the windchill. We’ve got a 9 hour shoot planned with our friend and Mountaineer, Heather Geluk. Shooting in cold weather conditions like this isn’t easy. Here’s some tips to get ahead.

Looking After Numero Uno.

You can’t be creative if you’re freezing your butt off. Before you even start thinking about which camera bodies or lenses you’re going to take with you. You should be thinking about what you’re going to wear. How you’re going to protect yourself from the elements.

Think about the activity you might be photographing. For example, are you skiing, maybe you’re on a snowmobile. Look after yourself first and foremost. If you can take care of yourself and do your best to keep warm no matter the conditions… You won’t be limited by the amount of time you can be photographing in cold weather conditions.

Do Your Housekeeping Before You’re Working Outside.

Be as prepared as you possibly can be. Very simple tasks in cold weather conditions, can be impossible tasks. Looking for batteries in a disorganized backpack, swapping SD cards, changing lenses or finding lens caps. Pretty much anything you can imagine doing, will take a lot longer. Time is precious when you’re shooting in cold conditions. Realistically when it’s -40, you can only do so much before you have to pack it in.

Don’t waste precious minutes on tasks that could have been handles the day before from the comfort and warmth of your living room sofa. Format SD cards, have them lined up and organized in your card wallet. Make sure camera bag is clean and sorted. Be sure that you’ve anticipated everything you might need ahead of time.

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Budget Your Time.

I mentioned we planned a 9 hour or so photo session. Well, when the forecast changed from bad to worse. I took the time to scope out are designated area before-hand. Which is good practice, regardless of cold weather conditions or not. However, especially important when it’s freezing cold, to ensure you can be that much more efficient.

Instead of taking 9 hours for our shoot. I was able to grab all of our shots within 4 hours because I scouted, and shot a “dry run”. I was able to figure out some compositions I liked. I created a few poses in my head at the location, I photographed a bunch of the area to study the photos the night before. All of this saved us the following day. There’s no way we could have been outside for 9 hours in those conditions. Not safely.

Special Considerations for Success.

No how your equipment operates ahead of time. My Sony batteries are awful in the cold. My camera also occasionally shuts down and crashes. I carry tons of extra batteries and wear them inside my chest pocket so they stay warm. I always have an extra backup camera incase one fails.

Backloading camera bags are great. You can put your camera bag face down and retrieve contents without getting snow inside your pack, or risk having snow get in-between your back and your camera bag on your back. It’s all little things, but they make a big difference.

Can you think of a time where you stopped shooting because you were unprepared for cold weather conditions?

Let me know what other tricks you might use to keep warm, keep your gear working, and shoot longer in cold weather conditions. I’d love to hear more tips and ideas.

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