Baby It’s Cold Outside!!

Well folks it has been WAY too long since I last posted here on the blog!!  The holidays and laziness I guess are what I can blame it on!  But back in gear for the new year.  HAHA!  Seriously though I have some great posts on the way for your reading enjoyment.  Some helpful insights and tips on goal setting for the new year followed by a FANTASTIC interview with the photographer from a Pittsburgh based, online retailer of women’s vintage and fashionable clothing, Modcloth.com.  She provides some great insights into the world of fashion, modeling, and photography!  And exclusive behind the scenes photos of their newly created studio!!  Following this two part interview will be another interview with local event photographer and I am sure to sprinkle in a photo of the week or a video montage as well.  Should be a great month of January blogging!!

But before all of that….  Some of you may have gotten a new camera for Christmas and are anxious to get out and capture the wintery weather.  Or perhaps a vacation, ski trip, or just a cold stroll around town.  So I thought I would share some quick tips/insights on cold weather or winter photography.  Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Flickr Group for some additional insights that are also included below.

Tip #1 – Batteries

Thought I would start with this one because if your batteries are dead, then your camera is obviously useless!  First and foremost, remember that batteries don’t like cold weather one bit. Outdoors in winter, it’s not unusual for your digital camera’s batteries to give up in less than half the time they ordinarily last in more temperate conditions. It’s a good idea to carry a set of spares, but keep them in an inside pocket, where they can benefit from body heat.

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While taking photos of an ice sculpture village at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, my biggest concern was condensation. Temperature did change from 6 degrees to 80 in the lobby afterall. Pentax K20D weather seals helped big time though!!

Tip #2 – Condensation

One of the bigger fears of shooting in the cold because water and electronics don’t play well together.  Condensation can form on the lens of a camera, on the viewfinder, or worst of all inside of a camera during drastic changes in temperature like going from 20 degrees outside to 80 degrees inside.  How to protect against this?

  • If you are going to be shooting in the winter weather a lot, consider a weather sealed camera whether it is a point and shoot or dSLR.  I know Pentax at least also has weather resistant lenses.
  • Allow your camera to slowly cool and slowly warm up.  You can do this by using a carrying bag to buffer the conditions or slowly transition the camera from a super cold environment to perhaps an enclosed porch to the house.
  • Many on the Pittsburgh Flickr group recommended keeping a ziplock bag with you.  You can put the camera in the bag to protect it after use and before transitioning to a different temperature.
  • Avoid changing lenses in the exposed cold environment when possible as this will only increase the risk of getting condensation on the mirror or sensor of your dSLR.

Tip #3 – White Balance

Digital cameras are getting smarter and smarter but are still not as awesome as the human eye.  So they try to adjust to what they think is best.  Bright, reflective, white snow and ice can really confuse a camera.  Try using presets in your camera for snow or winter which automatically adjusts the white balance for you. Or even better, explore the options in your camera to control the white balance manually.

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Taking photos at a hockey game can create some of the same white balance issues as shooting outdoors with snow.

Tip #4 – Dress for the Weather

Nothing worse than being out in the cold and being miserable!  Other than, in my opinion, being out in the cold in the first place!!  Make sure to dress for the weather.  Many times it might not feel that cold out, but stay out in the weather for a prolonged period and you might regret not dressing warmer.  Many of these are obvious, but… Layer your clothing for better warmth and the ability to take off layers with changing conditions.  Gore-tex was recommended by many.  Find a pair of warm gloves but also ones that are functional for taking photographs.  Some have suggested these handy gloves with a removable finger.  Not only warm socks, but also proper shoes for the environment that you will be exploring.  Just because they are warm doesn’t mean they are comfortable and vice versa.

Tip #5 – Be Prepared

The good ol’ Boy Scout motto.  Think about things like snacks, water, a charged cell phone, compass, or GPS unit depending on where you are exploring.  Not a bad idea to tell someone where you are going or go with a buddy if traveling in the woods or somewhere remote as well.

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Always interesting things to photograph indoors.

Tip #6 – Stay Inside

My personal favorite tip.  As I eluded to before, I am not a fan of the cold weather.  But this doesn’t mean you can’t take any photos at this time of the year.  This is the perfect time to try and line up indoor locations for photo shoots, explore the world of macro photography, shoot products or food or other items in a light box, or take photos of friends around the fireplace.  Get creative.  There are thousands of fun photo projects right in your own home!

Feel free to ask questions or share other experiences or suggestions!  Happy shooting!!

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