Cold Weather Shooting – Equipment

Well shooting in the cold can do some strange things to your body, but even more strange things to your equipment.  A camera that works great one minute can stop working altogether in real cold weather.  A tripod that you love in the warm weather can be a pain (literally) in the cold, and if you want to have some real fun try changing your camera settings when your hands are numb with the cold. So to make it more enjoyable here are some tips for Cold Weather Shooting – Equipment.

So once you have dressed for the weather what else should you do to make cold weather shooting enjoyable?

  1. Well one of the first things is to plan your shoot ahead of time.  Before you leave home set your camera for the type of shooting that you are going to do.  Set the ISO, White Balance, Program mode and anything else that you can before getting to where you are going to shoot.  I was out with some people last year and in -30 at 12:30 in the morning a couple of them decided that they would reprogram their cameras.  In about 2 minutes they gave up and went home as they were cold.  If you do need to adjust your camera settings go to a sheltered / warm vehicle to do it.
  2. Set up your gear ahead of time.  I will extend my tripod legs when it is still warm and put it in the back of the vehicle ready to pull out, this saves me trying to extend it in the cold.  I will also plug in any cords to my camera ahead of time as it gets harder to do the colder my hands get.
  3. Modify equipment to make it ready for the cold.  I put some insulation around the legs of my tripod so it is warmer when I carry it.  Even with gloves the tripod was VERY cold to carry, with the insulation it is so much better.  Attach a flashlight to your tripod so it will not fall into the snow. Anything to make it easier or warmer is a good idea.
  4. Charge up your battery and carry extra batteries.  I use dual batteries in my cameras but even then they will still cool off at the same rate, so keep a battery or two in a warm spot.  Leave one in the vehicle if you are close to the vehicle, put one in an inside pocket and switch the cold one out when it gets low on power.
  5. Acclimatize your equipment.  Going from +25 and humid to -25 and dry will cause your lenses and your view finder to fog or freeze up.  Try and do this slowly.  It can take a few minutes from the time that the camera gets out in the cold till you can take a clear picture.  Likewise coming back inside.  I like to put the camera and lenses in a plastic Ziploc bag (or at least in a close camera bag) so that any moisture gets on the bag and does not get on the lens body, glass or camera.  Again if you can let the camera warm up slowly.  I would rather leave my camera in the cold than to bring it in and warm it up and then take it out and let it cool off again a few minutes later.
  6. Use a lens cover / camera cover to keep your hands out of the wind when shooting.  This may not insulate your hands but it will help with the wind chill.  It is also good for the rain and in blowing snow to protect your camera.

Again a little preparation can go a long way to make shooting in the cold enjoyable and safe.


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