Alpenglow on the snowy Presidential Range.
Presidential Glow.

That John Muir was on to something.

I love these mountains.

A Lot.

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.

winter mountain views of frost and rime.
Mt. Eisenhower, Winter.

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.

rime ice and shadow high in the mountains
Rime and Shadow

It doesn’t matter how cold it is, whenever I’m in the mountains in the winter I’m happy.

momentary glow over wintery Crawford Notch New Hampshire
A Moment Of Light, Crawford Notch.

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.

Thats bad!

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.

Crawford Path trail sign coated in rime ice.
Winter Signpost.

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.

26 thoughts on ““The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go”

  1. There’s nothing like mountains to me, either, so these shots squeeze my heart with their beauty. We moved to Arizona just under a year ago and people don’t really get it when I say I miss winter. But I do. Have to get up into the mountains here soon to see some snow. I do miss its beauty but I’m glad I can share yours

    janet

    1. I’ve spent precious little time in the mountains this year, something I hope to rectify in the coming year. It’s funny you mention winter. As I get older I’ve come the understand the desire of the “Snowbirds” to fly south for at least part of the winter. For me, I still need my winters. I don’t think I could spend more than a month away from snowy mountains, let alone the entire winter.

      1. In Arizona we’re actually much closer to the mountains than we were in Naperville in the Chicago area. 🙂 Just very different from the mountains we enjoy in Wyoming in the summer.

    1. That I wholeheartedly agree with. Luckily for me, what the White Mountains lack in elevation and jagged peaks, they more than make up for in their extreme weather. It’s that weather that brings the beauty.

    1. Yes, as long as it’s not too windy. Even then, I’ll work inside my backpack, sheltering the camera and exposed sensor as best I can. Still being even more conscious of where I’m exhaling.

      I should mention I use a conventional hiking pack to carry my gear. I’ve found that few camera specific “backpacks” have the proper support, nor do they have a proper hip belt to carry the weight comfortably on a long hike. The ones that do have a proper backpacking harness are considerably more expensive than a comparably sized backpack. The more backpack-like camera backpacks also have too many compromises to be really good at being a backpack and a camera bag. To carry my camera and spare lens(es) I wrap them in one of my spare layers for protection.

  2. Jeff— beautiful work. I love being out in the winter as well. One time, while out photographing birds at a local park, my shutter froze and wouldn’t work until it had thawed out at home. It was only about 10°F as well! I wonder if different manufacturers use different lubricants. It was also an older digital body (ca. 2006), so maybe that had something to do with it as well.

    Jon

    1. I have heard of this happening, most likely the results of whatever lube is used inside the camera becoming very thick and stiff in the cold. Fortunately I’ve never had this happen with any of the Canon cameras I used to use, or the Fujifilm cameras I use now. I think one advantage of mirrorless cameras is that you have the ability to use the electronic shutter, therefore no moving parts to stiffen up or get stuck in the cold.

  3. I think that sign photo is my new favourite snow photo. Lovely contrast without detracting from the beauty of the snow.

    1. Thanks Diana. I included it to give viewers a sense of place. Though many hike the White Mountains during the warmer months, there are far fewer people on the trails in the winter. The sign helps to show those who’ve hiked this trail in the past to see what they’re missing by not hiking in the winter.

    1. Thank you! People come from all over the world to see our beautiful mountains during the autumn when they’re dressed in brilliant fall foliage, they have no idea how much more beautiful they are in the winter.

    1. Thank you very much! That light came out of nowhere. My friend Suzanne and I had thought it was going to be a complete bust when we got there. Then we noticed a few breaks in the clouds that occasionally allowed the sun to shine through. It didn’t last long, but it was amazing to witness while it did.

  4. Amazing shots ! That 3rd pic from the top, “Rime and shadow” is spectacular ! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that much snow and rime on trees ever, it’s splendid.
    As I’m not very fond of the cold, I don’t think I’ll ever be out in such extreme conditions but all advice is good to take and it’s very interesting to learn how you make it happen when you go out in the cold.
    Thanks again for the gorgeous views !
    Happy hiking !

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