Cold weather Photography Tips!


Christmas is a great time of year for some outdoor photography, but keeping your cameras alive in the cold weather can prove a challenge!

Page One photography picture of River Trent in winter 2010.
River Trent at -10’c. Picture by Doug Marke.

Farmer T has asked us how to keep his DSLR going, and the answer is not so much a trick, as is about managing your gear properly.

In extreme cold conditions battery’s can freeze, and that can bring most modern electronic cameras to a rapid halt. As well lubricants can start to solid up… so moving parts can have major problems.. In the days of film you also ran the risk of the film itself becoming very brittle, which needed to be carefully managed.

So all of these were challenges that had to be overcome when I was working in Calgary. But of course in the UK we don’t see -40’c very often!

If you are working outdoors for a longer period… spare batteries kept in a warm pocket is a good idea.

Ensuring the camera doesn’t get “Cold Soaked” for any lengthy period is also a good plan… if you have for instance left the camera overnight in the car at -10’c then you would probably be wise to get the camera warmed up a bit before using it to ensure there is no damage to moving parts caused by solidified lubricants…. I used to own a second set of cameras that had been winterised just for working in extreme cold… (Though I often wonder if this was a bit of a scam by my local repair guy…. I still ruined at least 3 Contax RTS’s in bad weather…)

Warmish cameras used outdoors when its snowing can also pose the risk that if snow lands on the camera, it will melt and potentially cause water damage… So you need to be carefull to avoid snow as much as rain… and if you do get snow on the camera get it brushed off as rapidly as possible before it melts… dont blow it off as your hot breath will help to melt it and will also drive water into the inside of the camera. Carrying a small brush to clean snow off of cameras is a good idea.. as well as some tissues to blot up any damp.

The real danger lies in bringing your now cold gear back into a warm and humid enviroment!

Humid air gets into the interior of the camera, condenses, and can utterly destroy your electronics. So lots of care is needed when bringing cold soaked equipment inside!

The best solution is to seal the camera into a ziplock airtight bag outside in the cold before bringing the camera into the warm… then allowing the gear to warm up before exposing it to the much more humid warm air.

So, in a nutshell… Keep you batteries warm, carry a little brush to get the snow off the camera, and put your equipment into a airtight bag of somesorts to allow it to acclimatise before using it indoors.

Have a good Christmas everyone!