A Photographer’s Quick Snow Survival Guide

Winters respite img_1919

Winters in New England can be quite harsh, and this season is proving to be exceptionally challenging with record snowfalls, cold and ice.  For many of us, it’s been a time to dig in, stay warm, and catch up on indoor activities.  And yet, for a photographer, winter can present some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire year.  To capture the best the season has to offer, you just need some preparation, the right equipment and a little bit of courage!  Here are my top 5 recommendations for shooting outdoors in the snow.

  1. If there’s any precipitation in the air, or if you’ll be visiting otherwise wet areas, you want to protect your camera.  For my dslr, I carry a 1 gallon Zip-lock bag and cut an opening in the bottom of the bag just wide enough for my lens to fit through.  I then place the camera in the bag, slipping just the end of the lens through the opening, which should be fairly snug around the edge of the lens.  I then put the lens hood on the exposed end of the lens, and the hood helps secure the bag tight to the lens.  The bag then covers the camera and all of the lens except the glass and the hood.  Since my lenses all have filters, even the glass is not exposed.  You can place your hands inside the bag to operate the camera, and when not shooting, zip the bag closed.  I leave my camera strap on and around my neck, so just remember to close the bag when it’s hanging so as to keep the downward facing back of the camera dry.  If you’re shooting with a smaller format camera, this will also work, just use a smaller bag.
  2. Condensation is the enemy of all electronic gear, and will form when warm air hits a cold surface. Before you bring your cold gear into a warmer space, place the camera and lenses into Zip-lock bags, squeeze out the excess air and zip tight.  Do this while still outside in the cold.  Then bring everything in and when the bagged gear warms up to the interior ambient temperature, open the bags and your all set.  Condensation may form on the outside of the bags, which is what you want.
  3. Batteries perform poorly when they are cold, so bring extra batteries with you and keep them close so they stay warm. 
  4. As important as it is to protect your gear, you need to protect yourself.  Dress for success in the cold by wearing adequate layers of appropriate clothing, including footgear and gloves.  Many a photo shoot in the colder climes ended prematurely because the photographer wasn’t prepared for the cold.
  5. And remember to EV up your exposure to compensate for your camera’s efforts to render that snow white scene into a dingy gray.  The above image was captured on a Canon A540 point and shoot, with only a +1/3 EV, which rendered the snow the right shade of white.  Experiment with EV’s of +1/3, 2/3 or 1 to capture the white accurately.  But also check your histogram and highlights view to avoid over exposure.

Get out there and enjoy the beauty of winter.  Make some great images and share them with us on 2 Guys Photo.

Posted by Ed

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About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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One Response to A Photographer’s Quick Snow Survival Guide

  1. 2guysphoto says:

    My tip for winter? Grab a homemade afghan blanket (fleece if necessary), a good book or your iPad/Kindle/Nook/Whatever, some cocoa and couple of Reece’s peanut butter cups and find a fireplace. Put that all together and you’ll survive the harshest that winter can throw at you.

    If you’re actually going to go outside and take pictures, do what Ed said…

    Posted by Rey

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