The weather is shaping up to be very wet and white today in Colorado, and while snow does no favors for our roads, it sure can be fun to go for a romp after a blizzard! Before you strap on your boots for a frozen photographic excursion, take a look at some of our favorite accessories for just this situation and make sure you’re properly prepared.
Cover your bodies properly
Paramount is not only your own safety—that should be a given!—but your comfort, as well. If you’re miserable and your hands are shaking from holding the metal barrel of your lens, you’re not likely to get any great pictures. Grab some decent photo gloves (balancing mobility and maneuverability) to keep those mitts in top form, available at a Mike’s Camera near you.
Depending on the volatility of the weather, it’s wise to prepare yourself for any level of moisture. Pack a set of travel ponchos for yourself and a companion and a rain sleeve for your camera, just in case. If you don’t use them this time, that’s okay. They never expire, and you’ll be prepared for the next time disaster looms! I keep protective gear in my truck, personally, because it’s a very cheap insurance policy compared to a very expensive replacement proposition.
One more critical part of either your outfit or that of your camera: lens cap leashes for each of your lens caps or a thoughtfully-positioned Hüfa clip. It’s never a good time to lose a lens cap, but dropping one in a snowy field can be disastrous. Unless you’re hoping to give a gift to some fortunate passerby come spring, make absolutely sure your caps are secure!
Is your gear sufficiently hardy?
It might be a good idea to check the recommended operating temperature for your camera, either in the manual or by typing “_____ operating temperature” into your favorite search engine. Few cameras, even tough or action cams, are designed to operate correctly at below-freezing temperatures! For many cameras, the risk is simply terrible battery life, but it’s always safest to follow manufacturer recommendations.
Either way, be sure to acclimate your gear rather than stepping straight from heat to cold—or be prepared to wait around while condensation renders your gear temporarily unusable!
If you’re not familiar with the acclimation process, the idea is to let your camera and lenses sit outside for a while before you’re actually ready to shoot so that the temperature of the gear is not extremely different from the ambient temperature. Putting your camera bag in a vehicle or garage is a good way to ease it in without risking theft too excessively; a waterproof bag on a balcony isn’t a bad solution, either.
Speaking of batteries: a spare battery nestled up cozily in your jacket is a must. Keep that battery warm and it will keep you shooting. Cold batteries, on the other hand, will only leave you crying as the perfect shot is rudely replaced with a grim warning: “battery exhausted.”
For ultimate preparedness, consider ProMaster Rugged memory, which is rated for below-freezing operation. From -13°F all the way to 185°F (-25°C–85°C), these babies will keep your memories safe wherever you can take them.
As anyone who’s emerged from a well-curtained cabin can attest, fresh snow is bright! One of the most common problems you’ll encounter is glare on a frozen river or slightly-melted snow. You can take care of that in most situations, if as if by magic, with a decent polarizing filter.
The other problem you’re likely to encounter is the brightness forcing your aperture and shutter speed into “narrow” and “short” in order to get a shot at all, even with your ISO all the way down. There’s an easy fix for that, too: simply dial back the input intensity with ND filters to keep your exposure under your own control.
This is especially true if you’re shooting with your EV compensation turned up a little—anywhere from +1/3 to +2, depending on who you ask—as you should be. (If you’re not or you forgot, here’s a good solution to the grungy snow you’re liable to capture!)
When the surrounding scene is so bright, shadows in faces or elsewhere on your subjects will be especially noticeable and, unless you’re going for an extreme high-contrast style, that much more obnoxious! A decent flash will allow you to smash that problem with aplomb, but a reflector is a low-tech solution that will work just as well—provided you have a friend to help you position it or can find a convenient branch/rock/GorillaPod to aim it just so.
This is the solution I would recommend, as a basic 5-in-1 kit should be in every photographer’s bag of tricks anyway. The difference it can make in your photography year-round is enormous, and you never have to worry about batteries or maintenance of any sort… as long as you don’t rip it anywhere. 😉
Join the fun
Trekking with the kids or the homies? Be sure to pack a tripod that can handle the weather and a wireless remote to trigger group shots. I know, I know, you think there’s a reason you’re behind the camera, but trust me: one day you and your companions will appreciate your getting everyone in there. The ProMaster XC522 strikes a great balance between portability and sturdiness.
Don’t forget to actually bring your microfiber cleaning cloth to take care of stray droplets on your lens. Not only does just using your shirt threaten the high-quality finish of that front element, many types of fabric just aren’t up to the task of truly cleaning it! This keychain-container cloth is a no brainer—grab as many as you need to clip onto your various bags (and car and desk and office and…) and you’ll never have to worry about it again.
Alternatively, or at least before you wipe those drops away, run with them for a few shots. I have a friend who does this to great effect, seasoning her photos with a dynamic, in-your-face sense of the environment. It’s a visceral visual, if you can get it to work for you, and what fun is any art form if you can’t reinvent “problems” as new solutions?