Welcome to November. It’s Fall, and Winter is right around the corner. (As they say, time flies when you’re having fun! You are having fun – right?) Summer is gone and the weather is changing. Snow has already hit the East Coast as well as theRockies. Time for photographers to get ready for some Cold Weather Photography!
Those who know me are well aware that cold weather is not my favorite environment – for photography, or much else for that matter. Personally, I think cold weather calls for a warm drink, a nice fire, and a good book or televised basketball game. It’s basically something to survive until warm weather returns. Still, there are times when even I am tempted to venture out on a cold day to do a photo or two. A bit of preparation can help me, and you, be more successful on those cold weather shoots.
Preparation for cold weather photography falls into two basic categories. The first relates to protecting you, the photographer, from the cold – keeping you warm, dry, and comfortable. The second relates to protecting your equipment from the cold – keeping it in good shape for effective shooting. Today I want to share some thoughts about the first category – protecting the photographer in cold weather photography. I’ll cover protecting your equipment in another post.
Techniques For Protecting The Photographer in Cold Weather Photography………..
1) LAYERS! – Your mama probably told you this, and your mama was right. Dress in layers for cold weather comfort. This applies from head to toe – socks, long underwear, shirts, vests, jackets, jacket liners and hats Layering gives you flexibility to adjust your clothing according to your need. There is a world of specialized cold weather clothing out there. You can stock up according to your interest and the size of your wallet. My own bias is that it is better to dress too warmly, in layers, on a shoot. You can open up jackets or remove items if you get too warm. But if you get cold you’re just out of luck.
2) SHOOTING GLOVES/MITTENS – Hand protection is a problem for photographers. Cold hands make for a miserable shoot. Nice big gloves and mittens can keep your hands toasty. But a photographer needs to have hands and fingers available to make setting adjustments on the camera and gear. This dilemma is best solved with the types of mittens also used by hunters. They have an opening that allows fingers to be extended out of the mitten when needed and then brought back into the warmth at other times. You might also consider some of the hand warmer devices (mechanical and chemical) that are available. You can get specialized mittens and warmers at various shops including photography supply stores and sporting goods shops.
3) GATORS – If deep snow conditions might be encountered then gators are the answer. They provide wrap around protection from the top of your boot to your upper calf, keeping snow from finding it’s way into the top of your boot and melting it’s way into your socks. Again, sporting goods stores carry lots of different types. I got mine at REI.
4) KNEEPADS – Really useful year round, but perhaps especially so in winter, external kneepads provide a nice cushion and protection when kneeling for those low angle shots. They also provide another layer of protection between you and the ice or snow that might otherwise start to melt it’s way into your clothing. Pick them up at builders supply stores or sporting supply stores. A fellow photographer on our recent Colorado outing got his at Lowes.
5) FACE PROTECTION – If the weather gets really cold you are going to want some face protection. A nice scarf can help a lot but for extended subzero exposure consider a face mask.
6) SHOOT FROM COVER – The unpleasant effect of cold temperatures can be greatly magnified by the impact of high winds. Trust me, you are going feel much warmer, and take much better photos, if you are not being buffeted about by high winter winds. Position yourself behind some type of wind break – a tree, a boulder, a building. Put something between you and the wind. The ultimate application of this concept is to shoot from your vehicle. I take a lot of flak about this, but I proudly admit that in winter I can be a bit of a car shooter. Why be outside in the cold when, if you properly position your vehicle, you can get some great shots and stay warm and toasty at the same time? Put the window down, maybe brace the lens with a bean bag, and shoot away. Of course you can’t do this for every shot – but when you can – why not?
Having just returned from doing some photography in Colorado (click here for related article) I can say that I had the opportunity to try several of these ideas and observed some of my fellow photographers using others. They were a big help. Do you have some other cold weather techniques that work for you? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
So remember to keep warm out there ……….And Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr.B, The Photo Trekker