Photo: Aleksandra Suzi/Shutterstock

Essential Camera Gear for Extreme Winter Weather

by Michelle Schusterman Nov 27, 2011
Protect your equipment and yourself when photographing in snow and freezing conditions.
Plastic bag

When your camera is exposed to the cold and is brought into a heated environment, the result is immediate condensation. Wrap your camera and lenses in Ziploc bags, trapping the colder air inside, then unwrap them once you’ve been inside for a few minutes. If you’re on a shoot that requires going in and out, exposing your gear to cold and warmth alternately, allow for a few minutes each time so your gear can adjust.

Extra batteries

In seriously freezing conditions, a cold battery might not function, even if fully charged. One option is to keep a spare battery in a pocket close to your body so that it stays warm, then inserting it when you’re ready to start shooting.

If you’re planning on spending a great deal of time shooting in extreme cold, the best option is to purchase lithium, nicad, or nickel metal hydride (NIMH) batteries, which are known to function well in the cold.

Paint brush

If you drop your camera or other gear in the snow or slush, it’s important to get it off immediately. Brushing it off with your hands, even if gloved, may warm the snow faster, and you run the risk of water seeping in. Keep a paint brush handy to brush the snow off; it works great for getting flakes out from in between little crevices.

Rubber lens hood

Go for a heavy duty model, preferably one that’s adjustable from wide angle to telephoto. If you’re shooting in a storm, place your camera in a plastic bag with a hole cut out for the lens and lens hood. Make sure your lens has a UV filter when shooting in these conditions.

Weatherproof bag

There are plenty of durable, insulated camera bag options out there. Look for those with foam padded insides, and consider accessibility; when you’re wearing six thick layers of clothes and bulky gloves, it’s important that your camera is as easy to get to as possible when the perfect shot presents itself.

Heavy tripod

Lightweight tripods aren’t ideal for extreme cold and winter conditions. Use one that’s either heavy and/or has grips. If a lightweight tripod is all you’ve got and you absolutely have to use it, minimize the risk of damaging your camera by keeping the legs as short as possible and not using the center post.

Photography gloves

You’ve got a few options when it comes to gloves that are designed to let you work touch LCD screens and buttons without exposing your fingers to potentially dangerous temperatures. What works for some people irritate others; experiment to find which type is best for you.

The first basic type are those with removable fingertips, so you can touch your camera without removing your gloves. Check out AquaTech Sensory Gloves or Flashpoint Finger Shooting Gloves. The other option is gloves made from special material that work on touch screens (also good for smartphone users), such as Isotoner Smartouch Gloves.

A cheaper option is to wear a pair of fingerless gloves under a pair of mittens.

Proper footgear

With your eyes constantly seeking out a great shot, it’s easy to not pay attention to where you’re stepping. Slipping in the snow or ice may hurt both you and your camera. Wear thick, layered socks and shoes or boots with good traction, and watch your step.

  • Hold your breath when you take the shot. Breath condensation can fog up your lens and viewfinder.
  • Don’t carry the camera under layers of clothing, as this will surround it in warm, moist air and cause condensation when you whip it out to take a picture.
  • Go minimal. If you have tons of lenses, filters, and other crazy gear, it’s best to choose just a few and leave the rest at home. Fumbling around in the snow with expensive gear increases the risk of damaging your equipment, not to mention missing potentially awesome shots.

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