Winter can be a wonderful season for photography. The sun is low in the sky throughout the day, giving good light for landscape photography, and you can photograph the sunrise without having to get up too early! And sometimes you may have the bonus of a landscape sparkling with frost, or even covered in snow.
However, the downside of winter – needless to say – is that it’s cold. And the cold weather can bring with it a few problems, not just for you, but also for your camera gear.
The first step in preparation is to make sure you’re warmly dressed, with both fleece and waterproof layers if necessary. It’s difficult to be creative if you’re distracted by being freezing cold! Good boots with gripping soles will also be invaluable in icy conditions. Fingerless gloves will mean that you can operate the buttons on your camera while still keeping your hands reasonably warm.
One of the problems you may experience with your camera is that the battery life will be shorter than usual in very cold weather. So make sure that you have at least one spare battery with you. Keeping the spare battery in an inside pocket means that the warmth of your body will help the battery to keep its charge for longer.
Condensation can also be a problem in cold weather. This can occur in two ways. One is that if you breathe on your camera, the warmth of your breath meeting the cold camera will cause condensation – and you may find that you have misted up your viewfinder, or the LCD display, or your lens.
The other is that when the camera is taken from a cold environment into a warm one, condensation will occur. This can mean that your lens and viewfinder will mist up – but may also affect the insides of your lens and camera, which can take a long time to dry out.
So it’s best to try to avoid taking your camera repeatedly from a warm to cold environment and back again – for instance, in and out of your car at several different locations. Consider leaving the car heater off, or keeping the camera gear in the boot when you’re driving between locations.
And at the end of your day’s shooting, put the camera back in its bag before taking it indoors, and leave it inside the bag for an hour or so, so that it can reach the room temperature more slowly than it would if it was unprotected. Some people recommend putting equipment into a sealed plastic bag before bringing it inside, and then again allowing time for it to reach room temperature. Acclimatising slowly in this way will help to reduce any problems with condensation.
One other thing to consider when you’re photographing winter landscapes with frost or snow is exposure. The camera’s meter assumes that the overall tone of a scene is mid-grey, so if you have a landscape with a lot of snow in it, the meter will assume a mid-tone, and the result will be that your photograph will be underexposed, and the snow will appear grey. So as well as taking a photo at your camera’s suggested exposure, take two or three more at one half or one third stop intervals up to as much as 2 stops over, depending on the amount of the scene which is covered with snow. The easiest way to do this is to use the camera’s exposure compensation button, moving the dial towards the plus symbol.