Protecting you and your gear in cold weather
Perhaps Santa brought you some new photo gear and you can’t wait to try it out. But old man winter is making you want to hibernate in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa.
Here are a few smart tips you can try so you don’t need to keep your photo gear in the closet until Spring.
Protect your batteries- In cold temperatures, batteries discharge faster than in warm weather. It’s a good idea to have a few extra with you. To keep your batteries warm, carry them in a pocket close to your body rather than in your camera bag where they will stay cold. You may want to wrap them in a piece of flannel or fleece to keep them extra toasty. In extreme cold, you might want to use a rubber band to attach a disposable hand warmer to your camera’s battery compartment.
Acclimate your gear- Your lens can fog up if you introduce it to the cold too quickly. Do some walking around first before you take your gear out of your bag to shoot. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the gear is outside about 15 minutes before taking it out of your camera bag.
Likewise, moisture and condensation will form on a cold object introduced to a warm environment so it’s best to warm up your gear gradually. Before returning inside, place your cold camera in a zipper plastic bag so the moisture will form on the outside of the bag instead of the inside of your camera, potentially harming the sensitive electronics. Keep your camera and lenses in your camera bag for about two hours before opening.
Recycle that silica gel pack that came in the shoe box of your new shoes by placing it in the plastic bag with your gear. A few tucked inside your camera bag will help as well.
Don’t photograph naked- No I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your lens! There is much debate over the use of UV filters, however, when you photograph in rain, snow or ice without protection on your front lens element you may subject it to damage.
Dress smart- Dress in layers! Your first layer should be a synthetic fabric that wicks away moisture and has good insulating properties. Stay away from cotton because once it gets wet, it stays wet. Fleece makes a good second layer. Your top layer should be water and wind proof. A jacket with lots of pockets enables you to carry your gear on you instead of inside a cold camera bag.
Protect your hands from frost bite by wearing good gloves. It is difficult to manipulate your camera controls in traditional gloves, but there are plenty of good camera gloves out there that have removable finger protection. Don’t want to spend money on specially made camera gloves? You can wear a thin pair of gloves and cover them with warm mittens. Remove and replace the mittens between shooting.
Snow reflects about 80 percent of UV rays from the sun and can cause snow blindness. So don’t forget to pack your sunglasses.
Insulate your tripod- It’s not so much a problem if you have a carbon fiber tripod, but if you have an aluminum tripod you’ll notice that the legs get really cold and you transfer that cold to your hands every time you pick it up or adjust it. A simple solution is to wrap the upper portion of each tripod leg in foam pipe insulation. Attach it to the tripod legs with gaffers tape or zip ties. You may also want to swipe a few of those free plastic umbrellas covers that the grocery store gives away on rainy days. Attach these to the bottom section of your tripod legs to keep snow, dirt and salt off them.
Stay Hydrated- It’s just as important in winter as it is in summer to travel with a supply of drinking water. Especially if you plan to be outside for a long length of time. To keep the water from freezing, carry the bottle in an insulated pouch and place it upside down in the pouch to prevent the top from freezing.
Keep it dry- Be sure to carry a lens cloth, rubber air blower and microfiber cloth. Use the microfiber cloth to dry any wetness from the camera body. If a lens fogs you can wipe it with a specially made lens cloth. Never wipe it with a section of your clothing. Use an air blower to dry moisture on a lens, never blow air from your mouth on the glass because your breath contains acids that can damage the lens coating. I always keep a small tarp or painters plastic drop cloth in the trunk of my car. It works as a barrier between the ground and my gear when I need to put it down. An emergency blanket works just as well and folds up small enough to keep in your camera bag.
Don’t let Jack Frost keep you from some great photographic opportunities this winter. Prepare yourself and your gear properly and you may just take some of your best photos. And here is one last piece of advice, if any of your photo friends “triple dog dare” you to put your tongue to the tripod legs… please, don’t fall for it!