Magazine article Sunset

Cold Hands, Bright Snow, Dead Batteries: Challenges of Cold-Weather Photography

Magazine article Sunset

Cold Hands, Bright Snow, Dead Batteries: Challenges of Cold-Weather Photography

Article excerpt

Snow may work white magic on the landscape, but it works black magic on photographs-and photographers. Few situations are as hard on you and your camera, or as tricky for your light meter.

The following tips can help you make photographing in snow easier and more effective, especially if you use a 35mm camera with adjustable settings.

Your equipment: avoid the big chill

If your camera depends on batteries for power, watch out. Cells are usually the first things to fail in the cold. Read your manual to learn what happens when your camera's batteries die. Some models quit altogether; other types with variable shutter speeds default to a single, fixed speed (usually 1/60 or 1/125 second).

If your camera switches to an unchangeable speed, you can still shoot if you can manually set the F-stop. To determine the correct exposure, use a handheld light meter or consult the printed guidelines that come with your film.

The best defense: keep batteries warm. Zip your camera inside your jacket between pictures. Or stow it in a camera bag. Tuck a hand warmer in the bag, too, being sure it doesn't touch the camera or acccssories. Check it often to make sure it isn't scorching your bag. Warmers, about $3 at sporting goods stores, can last several hours at a time.

And always carry spare batteries, stored in a warm, dry, inside pocket. Cut down condensation

Moisture can harm electronic and metal parts, especially if droplets freeze. Outdoors, try not to breathe on your camera; it causes condensation. Keep your camera in its case or bag when not in use; breathe away from it when shooting.

When you come in from the cold, you may see droplets forming on your gear. Beforeheading in, put all gear in your camera bag and close it up. The air inside will warm slowly, reducing or eliminating condensation. If you use your camera before it warms up, wipe off drops as they form. …

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