Winter Photography Preparedness

I was fortunate last year to interview winter photography expert Marc Adamus for Outdoor Photographer magazine. In the course of our discussion he offered some simple, but very important, tips for being prepared for winter photography, which I want to share with you here.

“The most common questions I get about winter photography,” he told me, “are how do you keep warm and how do you keep your batteries warm. Probably half the people I meet ask me these questions. Your batteries are a source of concern, and what I do is just keep a store of two or three extra batteries in an internal coat pocket and I just make sure that those batteries are warm. When it’s below zero degrees Fahrenheit out there, even if you’re using a big pro SLR with a big battery in it, your battery life may be 20 minutes or less. I’ve had situations where the battery life was five minutes and that was on a fully-charged battery. It was 30 below. Just keep those extra batteries warm.”

“If it’s really cold,” Adamus said, “I like to operate the camera with very thin windproof gloves that I wear underneath big down-filled mittens. The one-two combination of the thin gloves and big mittens can really help you in cold weather.”

“One of the keys to feeling comfortable is to stay dry,” he added. “In winter what makes you cold is usually not the cold—more often it’s getting wet. Whether that’s because you put on too many thick layers and started hiking and you’re sweating now, or whether the snow is wet and your feet and hands are getting wet, (it’s better to) bring a lot of layers with you and keep dry. The more you keep your body temperature up the more your extremities are going to stay warm. Some people’s hands freeze the moment they go outside, and that’s because the body core temperature hasn’t gone up yet. But as soon as you get moving and get hiking and remember to use a lot of different layers (as opposed to a couple of big thick layers) so that you can adjust and keep your body temperature right, you should be pretty comfortable out there. It’s a balancing act that takes a little bit of getting used to.”

“The last thing is condensation,” Adamus said. “It can absolutely be a killer. Condensation killed my 1DS Mark 3 on a trip to the Arctic last year. I ended up having to hike all the way out to get my backup camera. It was a real disaster. One of the things that you want to avoid is taking your camera from a very cold environment and putting it into a warm room or warm car. That can trigger the condensation that, especially when it refreezes, can do a lot of damage to the inside of your camera.”

“Don’t breathe on or anywhere near your lenses when it’s very cold out,” he added. “When it’s below zero and you breathe anywhere near the front of your lens you’re going to get ice crystals on there, and they are just a nightmare to get off. You’ve really got to heat the lens back up to get the ice crystals off the front elements.””

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