“Keep Shooting in the Cold” (January 2009 Show-Me Nature Photography Newsletter)

With winter upon us, how can you shoot the beautiful, wintery scenes while protecting your gear … and yourself? Let me start by saying that most equipment made these days can stand up to the cold, miserable conditions very well. In fact, keeping ourselves warm and dry is often the challenge. I’ll cover both the gear and the body in this tips article.

First, let’s talk about our gear. When heading outside to take some winter images, I’d recommend placing your gear in a small daypack or duffel bag, or a good camera bag for transporting to where you will be shooting. Not only will this protect your gear from bumps, but will help keep it nice and dry. Once you are at your location, then you can take out the camera and begin making your images. If it is raining or snowing, I strongly recommend protecting the gear with a protective plastic wrap or one of the commercially-available camera wraps that can be wrapped around the camera body and the lens (if you would like specific recommendations, please e-mail me with your equipment list and I will give you some options). In lieu of one of these wraps, a waterproof plastic bag can be cut and molded around most equipment … your choice.

Another important aspect of winter shooting is protecting your equipment from moisture condensation, which forms when the cold equipment is brought inside, into a warm environment. Without sufficient time to gradually warm up, condensation readily forms on the equipment surfaces. If you equipment is not sealed properly, this can have a devastating effect on your camera … remember, today’s cameras are electronic in nature, and moisture and electronics do not mix well! To prevent condensation, I place my equipment inside a plastic bag and seal it up well, just before I go inside. As the warm air hits the plastic bag, any condensation that forms will be on the outside of the plastic bag, not your equipment. If you have a small, point-and-shoot camera, you can simply use a ziplock baggy … just place the camera inside, zip closed, and you are all set. If you have SLR equipment, I’d recommend using a high quality trash bag. Place your equipment in the bag, roll up the open end of the bag, and take indoors. These tips should help protect your equipment for a long time.

Now that we’ve protected our equipment, how do we protect our bodies? The first recommendation I have is to use layers of clothing. Layering will allow you to remove layers, as necessary, to prevent overheating. Overheating will lead to perspiration and once you’re wet, keeping warm can be a real challenge. So, layer and make it easier on yourself! The second recommendation I offer is to use a good polypropylene (or similar) undergarments. This will allow your skin to “breathe” easier, allowing any perspiration to be wicked away from the skin. Polypropylene is very lightweight (easy to travel with) and does an excellent job. I also use polypropylene liner socks, underneath some wool hiking socks, to keep my feet dry when hiking around.

Lastly, always wear head coverings (stocking cap or something that will cover the head and ears). If you get warm, you can always remove them. And for the fingers, there are some excellent liner gloves available these days that will help keep the fingers warm. In addition to these liners, I usually use a fingerless, wool glove over the liner gloves. These allow me to shoot, all day long if I wish. Then, over these, I have available a pair of nice wool mittens, for those extra cold days! These mittens are special … the finger end of the mittens folds back over the back of my hand (and fastens with velcro), to allow me to shoot. When done shooting, I simply fold the flap back over my fingers (and it “fastens” in place with velcro on the palm of the glove). This scenario works very well on those cold days.

Oh, yes. Another great tip is to use those chemical hand/toe warmers. These work great and for hours. I always travel with some in the winter! I hope these tips help keep your equipment in good condition and your body warm on your next cold-day outing.

If you have any questions regarding keeping your equipment dry and protected, would like specific recommendations for your equipment, or if you have some tips to share, please let me know (I will share tips sent in to me in a future tips section, or in my Show-Me Nature Photography Newsletter). Send your questions or tips via this easy link: showmenaturepix@hotmail.com

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