The temperature may be plummeting but that doesn’t mean you need to pack your camera away until the spring.
Winter can be an exciting time to get outside and expand your photographic portfolio. When the ground is enveloped in a blanket of white, even familiar surroundings can take on an entirely different perspective, and there are many opportunities to capture unique images. Winter does present certain challenges that photographers normally don’t have to deal with during other seasons
- Keep you batteries warm.
Cold batteries will lose their charge faster than warm ones, so bring a couple of spares and store them inside your jacket to keep them warm and they’ll last longer.
Batteries lose power at low temperature, and the colder it is, the faster the drain happens. While this applies to all batteries, the latest generation fares much better than its predecessors. The best rechargeable performers are lithium-ion followed by NiCad and NiMH. They should all function satisfactorily down to 32° F (0° C). As for non-rechargeable batteries, lithium-ion is the best choice. Avoid alkalines entirely, as they perform poorly in the cold.
Even though batteries may appear exhausted in cold weather, they will regain their power once warmed back up. The recommendation is to have one or more spare batteries when out in the field. Keep spares in a warm inner pocket and switch them when needed. A hand warmer placed in the pocket with the spare batteries will keep them toasty and help them recover faster.
- Keep your camera cold.
Once your camera is cold, If you are planning a trip out in the cold, leave the camera in the coldest room in your house. you’ll want to avoid warming it up too fast. Storing your camera inside your jacket or bringing it straight into a warm room can cause condensation which might fog your mirror or, even worse, short your electronics.
- Look for contrast.
Snowy scenes are perfect for eye-catching high-contrast images. Look for rock formations, tree branches, buildings, animals or people that stand out from the white background.
- Give some scale.
A blanket of snow can make it even harder to determine scale in a winter landscape. Including buildings, people or other features gives your view a sense of size and distance.
- Watch where you walk.
We don’t just mean don’t end up thigh-deep in a snowdrift (although be careful of that too). If you’re hoping to shoot pure snow, make sure you don’t walk over areas that you’ll want to photograph. However, some footsteps leading into a scene can give a great photo opportunity.
- Shoot RAW and overexpose.
Cameras don’t see snow quite the way the human eye does, meaning that it can often appear grey or blue, rather than pure white. Shoot in RAW and step your exposure compensation up and perfect the image in post.
Armed with the knowledge of how the meter functions, it’s then a simple matter to achieve correct exposure by adding positive compensation (overexposure). I find that even on an overcast day, or in shade, a snow-covered scene will need to be overexposed by +1 stop, or exposure value (EV). Bright sunlit snow scenes may require +2 EV. Be very careful at going beyond +2 EV compensation, though, as things will start to become blown out with loss of detail.
- Protect your gear.
When you’re not actively shooting, keep your lens cap on to stop snow and moisture from getting on your lens and, ideally, equip yourself with a lens-hood as well. Waterproof covers are available but in a pinch a plastic bag with a hole for your lens and an elastic band to secure it will do.