Does it look familiar? These days it’s about -10 degrees here in the islands surrounding Bergen. Our winters are normally 2 degrees and rain, so this dry weather, with freezing temperatures and wind from the east, is not something we get every year. Personally, I love photographing in this weather. Everything seems crisper and more clear, though, it has its disadvantages. Today I went for a walk in the forest to test my gear. Some of it has never seen degrees below zero, so I wanted to see how it reacted.
I’ve got five things that I use to keep my gear working. But we all now that Murphy’s law, is the only law in photography that never changes, so things will go wrong. But being properly prepared makes the chances smaller though. Do you have some tips I should put on the list? Do comment below!
Disclaimer: We’re all adults. These bits of advice take into account that you actually manage to dress according to the weather and use common sense.
Give some love to the batteries.
This is my most important one, and I can not repeat it enough. Make sure you have a jacket with inner pockets so that you can keep all of your batteries close. If you feel uncomfortable and robot-like, just deal with it. Having them somewhat warm will increase your shooting time, as the cold makes them discharge faster. This goes especially for smartphones.
I also use these hand warmers. I think they originate from hunting, but I keep them on the back side of my iPhone to keep it somewhat heated. (Keep in mind that the hand warmers come in all kinds of forms, shapes and brands. DO READ the information on the pack of the ones you buy. Some of them can give severe burns if you use them wrong.) Personally, I do not think the disposable ones work as good as the one you can reheat. As disposable as horrible tea, to be quite frank. Use the real deal.
My iPhone is really living its own life these days, so the heating bags gives me a few minutes extra flying time.
And guys. You need to bring more than one battery! The extra weight means nothing if you have to stand and watch as that perfect frame appears before you.
Keep your gear inside the backpack.
If you aren’t out hunting wildlife and need to respond instantly, keep your gear inside a camera bag. I recommend using a backpack. It’s kinder to your back (doh!), but it also gives it some shelter if there is a lot of cold wind. (Like now for instance, when it’s constantly blowing from the east). My experience is that the batteries last longer this way, and your hands too. If you don’t carry something around, at least I tend to move my hands and fingers more, which leads to them being warmer.
It also gives the gear shelter for snow and such. Cold soaking it would probably just increase the chance to develop cold-related problems.
And guys: if you put something in the snow, lift it up with your hands, making the snow melt – the water will freeze. I learned that the hard way with the gimbal on my Mavic. It is much better to use the backpack to put things on instead.
Remember to use a rain sleeve (even if it snows!) Even the professional camera body deserves some protection.
When things gets out of the jacket – it stays outside.
(Except my phone. It’s always room for some love there.)
Now, this is because as you take it out of the heat, into the cold and into the heat again. The chances that you will get some condensation on the optics and electronics is rather high. I don’t know about you guys, but when it is so cold that I’m tucked in clothes from my head to toes, you can be sure that I am warm on the inside from walking in all of those clothes in the snow etc.
If I am going from a really cold to a warm environment I’ve started to use the “bag tip”. You put your camera in an airtight plastic bag and you leave it in there for a few hours as you get back inside. It works best if I just bring the one camera, especially the small Sony. I must admit, it’s going to take a lot before I put my entire backpack into plastic bags. But I do recommend leaving it in the hallway by the front door (if you don’t have heated floors) before taking it all the way into the heat.
If you do get condensation on your camera, remove the batteries and do not start it until you are completely sure that it dried up. It’s coming back in that does the most damage.
Don’t be a cheap ass when it comes to the memory cards.
This I learned the hard way. I found some cheap memory cards here a few years back, and they actually did the job just fine during the summer and early autumn. And then winter came. It never even occurred to me that memory cards to have their limits when it comes to temperatures. After some research, I ended with SanDisks extreme-cards, and knock on wood, to this day they have never let me down!
On their website they write: “Shockproof, temperature-proof, waterproof, and X-ray-proof, so you can enjoy your adventures without worrying about the durability of your memory card.” And they are so right.
There are probably other brands that do the job just as well. My point is: don’t underestimate them. They are worth the extra price. I use them both in my drone, my underwater camera and in my professional camera. I actually managed to lose one in a cup of tea once, and it still works.
Isolate everything that can become painful glue.
A few days ago I put my hand into a cold bucket of water, just moments before I grabbed the metal handle on the same bucket. The skin and metal instantly glued together, and it reminded me of a day I did something similar to my tripod.
I must admit, my tripod-days are getting fewer and fewer, but when I do bring it I try to either isolate the tripod or my own hands. Preferably the last one. If it gets really cold I actually prefer working with a remote, because my hands get so cold. (Yes, even when I put my camera in the backpack to get the chance to move my fingers).
After some time now, I actually concluded that I prefer two pairs of gloves. A thin pair on the inside, covered by a thick one on the outside. This gives me the opportunity to take off the outer layer without losing all feeling in my hands.
Use skin protection. I guess you do not want to look like an 80-year-old person with skin damage before reaching 30 years old? A good cold cream or a sun cream. Make sure your hands are covered at all times. Sunglasses can be gentle with the eyes if you are out photographing in the snow on a sunny day. (This only applies if you’re not one badass northerner. Which I am absolutely not.)