In my last post, I talked about how much I enjoy shooting in “bad” weather. In this post, I continue by explaining how to keep you and your gear warm and happy when you do.
Clothing is simple, you already know you’ll want to take a hat and coat when you go out in the rainn, and you probably know to “dress in layers” so that you can add or remove layers as conditions change when shooting outdoors. That’s easy.
What’s tougher is keeping your hands warm while shooting. With today’s digital SLRs festooned with dozens of tiny buttons, working the camera while wearing gloves can be a real challenge. My solution to this is wearing convertible glove/mittens, sometimes called “glomitts.” Glomitts combine a fingerless glove with a mitten-like flap that can be folded back and velcro’d out of the way when it’s not covering the tips of your fingers. They’re fantastic.
Chemical hand warmers are another great addition to your cold weather gear. These inexpensive disposable cloth-covered packets, are small (about three by five inches, maybe a half-inch thick) and generate a modest amount of heat, one in each jacket pocket will do the trick.
Most modern DSLR gear performs pretty well at temperatures down to 0 °F (-20 °C) or so, but there are a few things to watch out for when shooting in the cold.
The first is battery life. DSLR battery life has improved markedly over the last few years, but pretty much all camera batteries just can’t provide as much power in the cold. Second, you’ll want to keep extra batteries (perhaps in a pants pocket, near your skin). You’ll also want to watch out for fogging or frost caused by your breath, it’s very easy in cold weather for the water in your breath to condense and even freeze on the back surface of the camera, making it harder to see the back LCD or see through the optical viewfinder.
Mist and rain present more significant challenges, digital cameras can be damaged by getting too wet. Most cameras take some steps to try and protect their inner workings from damaging moisture, but enough water will destroy nearly any digital camera (save for specialty underwater cameras), and so you do need to work to keep your equipment from getting too wet.
Hiking, you can start with just keeping your equipment in a good camera pack. While there are a few waterproof packs (e.g., the Lowepro DryZone line), their stiff waterproof zippers can be a pain in the cold, so I’d recommend skipping them unless there’s a risk of dropping your pack into the ocean. Instead, get a good pack, apply a good water-repellent spray to it, and then use a rain cover (a few models of pack feature built-in rain covers) or a plastic garbage bag in heavier rain.
When it’s time to shoot, plastic garbage bags can also provide a large cover over your camera and tripod, but shower caps or dedicated rain covers (e.g., the Kata Elements E-702) can provide easier rain protection for your camera in heavy rain.
A final challenge with rain is getting drops of water on the front lens element or filter; these can ruin a photograph. Sometimes a lens hood will do the trick, but when the wind is blowing mist toward the camera sometimes there’s just little that can be done except to wipe the front element with a lens cloth, shoot immediately, and repeat until you get a clean shot.
With just these few tips, you’ll find “bad weather shooting” easier and more fun. Enjoy!