Taking Your Camera Out In The Cold.
Winter is my favorite time to photograph landscapes. Almost every landscape I’ve ever photographed I feel looks better under a blanket of newly fallen snow. As beautiful as this winter wonderland can be, there are extra precautions needed to keep my camera up and running when the mercury falls.
Here are a few of the tricks I use to keep my camera going when the temperature plummets.
First a disclaimer:
The suggestions offered in this post are ones that have worked for me in temperatures as low as -15°F. This is well below the recommended operating range you’ll likely find in your camera owner’s manual. Other than reduced battery life I have never had a cold related failure of any camera I’ve ever owned. Jeff Sinon Photography assumes no risk should you chose to follow the advice and tips offered here.
Batteries, Bring Extras and Keep Them Warm.
I take at least 2-3 spare batteries with me whenever I head out. Sometimes I’ll bring as many as 5 if I’ll be on a long hike or it will be really cold.
To keep them warm I store them close to my body in the inside chest pocket of one of my base layers. As an added precaution, If I’m going to be hiking in the dark or otherwise not planning to take photos until I get to my destination I’ll take the battery out of the camera and keep it with the others in order to keep it warm until I need it.
Tip: On really cold days I might toss one of those chemical hand warmers for additional warmth.
Tip 2: Placing a “dead” battery back in your pocket to warm up will often bring it back to life enough to give you several more shots.
Watch Your Breath.
Be very careful when exhaling near your camera. When its cold the moisture in your breath can freeze instantly on your camera.
Frost on the back of my camera and Really Right Stuff L bracket(above photo) isn’t such a big deal. It’s kind of a big deal should you inadvertently exhale on the viewfinder (I say kind of because you still have the LCD), definitely a big deal if you exhale on the front lens element.
As excited as you may be to grab your camera and rush back into your nice warm house after a day out photographing some beautiful winter scenery, STOP! The last thing you want to do is bring your now ice cold camera back inside where it’s nice and warm. Doing so runs the risk of condensation building up not just on, but inside your camera.
Eyeglass wearers will know exactly what I’m talking about. That moment when you first step back inside where its warm, and your glasses immediately fog up. That will happen to your now cold camera too.
There are a few tricks I use to prevent this.
1- Place your camera in a large ziplock bag before you bring it inside. Squeeze as much of the air out as you can before you seal it. By doing this any condensation will form on the outside of the bag, not on or in your camera.
2- Use your camera bag as insulation. The padding in most camera bags also does double duty as insulation. By leaving your camera in the bag, with all the zippers and flaps closed, you can slowly acclimate your camera back to room temperature. This is the method I use most often.
3 – Use the heater in your car. Not directly of course, but what I will often do is set my camera on the passenger seat of my car for the ride home. As the car’s heater warms up the inside of the car it will also slowly rewarm your camera. By doing this the camera, and the last lens I was using at the time, should be back up to temperature(or close enough to it) by the time I get home so I can bring it right inside without fear of condensation buildup.
All my other lenses, etc., are left in the closed camera bag to slowly warm up as in tip #2.
Obviously this only works well if you’ve got a good 30+ minute drive back home. Otherwise the camera probably won’t have warmed up enough, requiring the use of either Tip #1 or #2.
Lastly, if Tip #3 isn’t an option but you just can’t wait to get those images on your computer, take the memory card out of the camera before you seal it inside the ziplock or your camera bag.
Now bundle up, grab a fist full of spare batteries and get out there!