Posted by: David Vernon | January 4, 2010

Baby It’s Cold Outside

San Sebastian

Even though I took this photograph about a year ago, it’s amazing how little things have changed since then. Standing in the same place today I found it looking eerily familiar. And even though it’s only the 4th of January, I’m officially tired of this amazingly cold weather.

One thing we’ve never really talked about here on the CIPB is the gotchas of shooting in cold weather – and there are a few. So why don’t we cover a few things you should consider when heading out in this weather to photograph.

First and foremost I know we have a tendency to hibernate a little when the weather gets this brutal. It’s easy to go a few months without seriously picking up your camera. This is something to seriously avoid – there’s a world of good photographic opportunity out there – so let me encourage you to get out and explore – but to dress warmly and take the following things into account:

  • Cold weather eats batteries. If you aren’t out with a spare battery – and a spare battery kept close to your body – you may find yourself in a good spot with not enough juice. Charge two batteries – and then keep an eye on that first one – when it’s really cold you’re gonna get a lot less oomph.
  • Cold weather will get your camera wet. How’s that? When you’re outside shooting for quite awhile, your camera body and lens get’s cold. Really cold. Gotta wear gloves to shoot cold. And then – then you come inside – into a nice warm house and immediately your camera acts as a condenser – taking the moisture out of the air and letting it condense right on your camera. The solution. Put your camera in a large Ziploc-type bag outside and seal it up. Then as the camera and air inside the bag warm up slowly, the condensation should occur on the outside of the bag – protecting your gear from lots of invasive water droplets.
  • Cold weather brings snow – and that snow can fall on your camera. Standing under a tree may seem like a good place to stand when the snow is coming down – it can protect your camera from the wet stuff. Until it gets to heavy and falls off the tree onto your camera. Just be aware of what’s over your head if you feel protected – and it doesn’t hurt to have a little rain gear on your body and lens to protect from the unexpected.
  • Cold weather brings snow – which we just mentioned – but that snow is tricky stuff as far as your camera’s meter is concerned. A lot of snow in the scene convinces the evaluative meter in your camera that the scene is very bright. Very bright. And the camera tends to underexpose to compensate – turning your snow grey-ish. If you overexpose (start at +1 stop/EV) you can override the meter and keep your snow white. Play with it – anywhere from a half-of-a-stop to two stops can work.
  • Cold weather brings ice. I was out walking on the edge of a road the other day where it sloped downward and hit a patch of ice and went down very quickly (thankfully no witnesses with cameras). My camera was over my right shoulder and I was able to cradle it and protect it from hitting the ground. But watch out – a tendency to protect your camera puts YOU in danger – and a tendency to protect you puts YOUR CAMERA in danger. Oh the choices.
  • Cold weather brings cold hands. Good luck with the gloves/mittens. I like to keep a thin liner on my hands with which I can operate the camera. When I’m not shooting I will stuff my hands in my pockets or I’ll put on a thicker pair of mittens to keep my hands warm.

Don’t give up on this cold weather – it really presents a unique perspective on the world – you just have to do a little prep. And see that dress warm comment…


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