That John Muir was on to something.
I love these mountains.
The White Mountains are the reason I stayed in New Hampshire after finishing my enlistment in the Air Force, and they’re a large part of the reason I photograph.
The White Mountains are especially magical when they’re, well, white.
Yes they are spectacular when awash in the color explosion of autumn, but it’s when they’re beneath a frosty blanket of white that I find them the most beautiful.
It doesn’t matter how cold it is, whenever I’m in the mountains in the winter I’m happy.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when the weather has bitten me in the butt. Mountain weather is anything but predictable, and there have been numerous times where I’ve come away empty handed because “partly cloudy” became “I know there’s a mountain over there somewhere,” with near whiteout conditions requiring me to turn back. Even then, there’s something about the winter mountains that keeps me coming back.
“But what about your camera?”
Now that I’ve got the pretty picture part out of the way, it’s time to talk about a few tricks I use to keep my camera alive during and after a winter adventure in the mountains.
The one thing all of these images have in common is that the temperature at the time of capture was well outside the operating range listed in the owners manual. Some times WAY outside that range*. I’m happy to say that so far the only cold related issues I’ve had, with the exception of an occasional errant breath(which I mention further on) has been with regards to battery life.
Battery life takes a HUGE hit when the temperature falls. As such there are two things I do to combat this. The first is to carry spares, and keep them warm. Usually I accomplish this by carrying them in an inside pocket where body heat can keep them warm. The second is that when it’s really cold I don’t put a battery into the camera until I’m ready to shoot. This way the battery isn’t slowly dying during the hike to where I plan to photograph.
Fun fact, once a battery shows as dead, warming it up can often bring it back to life enough for a few more shots.
Another precaution to consider is where you direct your breath while looking through the viewfinder. Avoid exhaling as you put your eye to the viewfinder or you risk frosting it over. This also applies to the front element of your lens. While this may seem obvious, frosting over your viewfinder or worse, your lens, can put an end to your shooting for the day.
I may or may not have some experience with inadvertently icing over my lens. 🙄
The bigger concern with cold weather photography is what you do with your camera AFTER you’re done.
DO NOT bring your camera into your nice warm house immediately after you’ve been out in the cold. You run the risk of condensation forming on, or much worse in your camera.
You need to allow your camera to acclimate S L O W L Y to room temperature in order to prevent potentially damaging moisture in the form of condensation from possibly killing your camera and/or lens. To avoid this you can place your camera in a large ziplock bag, squeezing out as much air as possible before sealing it. I keep a gallon size ziplock in my camera backpack just for this purpose. Condensation with still form, but rather than on/inside your camera it will form on the outside of the bag where it cant do any damage. Another method of condensation avoidance I use is to leave my gear in my camera bag. With all the zippers closed the padding acts as insulation, allowing the camera to slowly reach room temperature. So far this has worked well for me, though there is a (slightly?) higher risk with this method.
For those who simply cannot wait to view their images from a cold day out with their camera, take the memory card out of the camera before sealing it in the ziplock or camera bag. Yes, it really is that easy.
*NOTE: This is what works for me. In over 10 years of torturing my cameras by subjecting them to temps as low as -15°F I have never had a functional issue or killed a camera by using it well outside the recommended operating rages listed in the manual. But that’s me, you’re on your own, accepting sole responsibility should you choose to do the same.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention that if you’d like to support me in any way, the majority of my images are available as prints. In an effort to make it easier, I’m going to do my best from this point on to make each image a clickable link to that images page on jeffsinon.com. If you’ve ever seen an image here but can’t find it anywhere on my print site, shoot me a message and I will make it available.
Thank you all for your continued support.