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How To Guide: Winter Photography

This guide details some of the things that have made winter photography easier for me.


How to wear charcoal warmers.

This may seem self explanatory, but many people are wearing the toe warmers incorrectly.


Believe it or not, toe warmers should be worn on TOP of the toes. This is where the toe warmers have access to the blood. When they are placed under the foot, they are uncomfortable and will take longer to warm your feet.


When I am standing on ice or standing in the same spot for a long time, I will sandwich a full length insole size foot warmer and have the toe warmers on top.


These charcoal warmers are oxygen activated, which means when they are in your boots they are getting less oxygen so they often don’t last as long as the package states, and may not get as warm as expected. Always make sure they are starting to warm up before you put them on your toes. I usually take mine out about 10 minutes before I get to my location so that I can put them on when I am getting dressed.


Below, on the left you can see my foot - which is fairly narrow. The toe warmer barely covers my big toe and my baby toe.


On the right, you can see that I've turned it to the side so that it covers most of my big toe and can wrap it around my baby toe.




Condensation


Tip: DON'T BREATHE NEAR YOUR CAMERA!


When I look at the front of my lens, I hold my breath. I do everything I can to stop my lens from fogging up. I even hold my breath when changing lenses just in case.


Don't put your lens cap in your pocket. It will be warm when you put it on your lens and it will fog it up.

I avoid using my viewfinder so that I am not breathing on my camera and freezing up the screen or the buttons. I use my live view screen.


Additionally, don't leave your camera bag in your vehicle. Take it out with you and allow it to acclimatize to the environment. ALWAYS put your camera back in your bag. You don't need a plastic bag to put your camera in, just put it in your cold camera bag and it will be fine.


Allowing the camera to be in the warm vehicle outside of the camera bag will cause the lens to fog up, similar to how glasses fog up when coming inside from outside. If that condensation stays and you take the camera back out to the minus temps, it will turn into frost, which is difficult to remove safely.



Touch Screens

With pretty much every newish camera out there having touch screens, it makes having good touch screen gloves all the more important.


My advice is to bring your camera or your phone with you and test out the gloves. Make sure you can type a full sentence with the touch screen gloves, or that you can trigger your touch screen with them BEFORE you're in the field.



Ice cleats/Micro Spikes

Micro Spikes are key for the winter. They help with winter hiking when you don't need full on snowshoes.


I want to specifically talk about using Micro Spikes on ice. Many people walk gingerly on ice because they are afraid of slipping. When you are using micro spikes and walking softly, you aren't allowing the spikes to grab onto the ice so they will slide on the ice instead. You need to walk with confidence and with purpose so you can allow those spikes to grab onto the ice.



Carry Layers

When I have to hike to a location for sunrise during the winter, I often start out in just my long sleeve shirt or my shirt and fleece. You do not want to sweat while you are hiking, especially when you are going to stand still once you get to your location. I have my packable down layers in my camera bag and I strap my big bulky outer layer on the outside of my bag so that I can wear it when I get to my destination. They key is to trap the heat without overheating.


I will often gradually put on my layers once I get to my location - that way, I don't get too hot.

Tip: Start your hike "cold". When you start warm (or hot), chances are you'll sweat as you begin to exert yourself, which can become very chilly when you stop to do your photography.

Extra tip: Remove your jackets and gloves when you get into the vehicle. You will NOT warm up when you aren't allowing the heat in the vehicle to access your body. Your cold clothing will insulate you from the warm air your vehicle is blowing at you. Allow the hot air to heat you back up; it's faster than waiting for your body heat.


I even go as far as taking off my boots and drive in a set of faux crocs that I call my "driving slippers". That way my feet don't overheat in the vehicle which will cause them to sweat and which will end up making my toes cold on the next outing.


Camera gear and tips

White Balance

White balance for the snow is a common challenge for photographers. I have found auto white balance does a pretty good job. Make sure you are over exposing by 1/3 of a stop or more to allow the snow to brighten. Pay attention to your histogram so you don't lose information in your whites.


Batteries

Your batteries aren't dead, they are just cold. Make sure you have a second battery ready. You can rotate between batteries 1 and 2 continuously. I will usually keep the battery not in use in my hands and keep it warm.


Tripods

Some tripods don't have rubber grips on them, so you end up having to touch the metal. There are neoprene tripod wraps made by a company called Lens Coat that wrap around the tripod leg so you have something to grab onto when you are opening and closing the lens.



 

I am going to keep this post as a living article, and I will be adding to it as time goes on so that I can answer any additional questions that people have. Please feel free to reach out if you wish to know anything more!


Thank you for reading, and happy shooting!


-Dani

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