Baby it’s cold outside!
Winter is one of my favorite times of year to get out and make photographs. Extreme weather, including cold, can make for dramatic photographs, but the cold can adversely affect your camera, especially the batteries, if you’re not careful. Nothing can ruin a winter shoot faster than a camera that’s dead due to a cold induced coma in your battery.
Having been out shooting in temps as low -10°F / -20°C, without experiencing any camera malfunctions, I wanted to share a few tips on what works for me to keep the camera shooting when the mercury drops through the bottom of the thermometer.
Cold Caution: Whether or not you decide to brave the cold with your camera is completely, totally, 100% up to, and on you. I accept no responsibility for you or your camera should a malfunction occur. As an example, Canon lists the operating range of their cameras as 32-104°F / 0-40°C. I’ve frequently use my cameras in much much colder temps than this without ever having a problem, please exercise caution, and use common sense when exposing your camera to extreme cold. Only you can decide if it’s worth the risk.
Batteries, the more the merrier!
Having only the one that came with your camera isn’t going to cut it when it’s really cold outside. Nothing will kill a battery faster than the cold, so I always bring at least one spare, two is better. With my Canon 40D I would bring 4 batteries with me, and often need them all. That camera sucked the life out of batteries in the cold like you wouldn’t believe. Luckily, my current 7D is much better at cold weather battery life, but I still bring a spare.
And keep them warm!
For me, keeping my batteries warm when venturing out in frigid weather is a two-part strategy. First, I remove the battery from the camera and put it and my spares inside an inner pocket of one of my clothing layers. Only installing the battery in the camera when I’m ready to make a picture.
Second, I never leave home without 3-4 small chemical hand warmers in my pockets. I toss one in the pocket with my batteries to keep them nice and toasty. Also, if like me you like to take photos with your iPhone as well as your “real” camera, toss it in there too. I’ve found my iPhone really doesn’t care for temps much below 20°F, showing a dead battery and shutting down, usually right in the middle of trying to take a picture.
This trick works well at reviving seemingly dead batteries too. You’d be surprised how much more life you can get out of a battery that has died due to the cold just by warming it up.
After hiking several miles for a view like this…
The last thing I want when I get there, is a dead battery, with no backup, when keeping them warm would have done the trick.