Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shooting in winter - Tips & Tricks

Winter has definitely planted some firm roots and isn't going away any time soon and eventually you're going to have to venture out with your camera. Hoar frost is always a very enticing subject however it seems to only form when it's ridiculously cold outside and only sticks around until the sun starts to come out. This means you'll probably be shooting in the early morning and one of the coldest parts of the day.

If you're brave enough to venture out into these frigid tempuratures here are a few tricks to keep in mind when you're out shooting.

1) Warm Batteries = Longer Lasting Batteries
Although you may feel frozen to the bone there is a good chance that your body is still actually warm so keep your batteries close to it. I normally wear button up shirts that have a breast pocket and find this to be a good place to put them. I've heard of people putting them in their socks even!
While we're on the topic of batteries you should already be using Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) rechargable batteries in your camera. If your still using alkaline or NiCad its time to switch. NiMH batteries will last much longer than the other two, some as much as 4x or more. Plus they're rechargable so if you were shooting alkaline this is a no brainer, if you were by chance using NiCad (can you even buy those anymore?) then you'll be glad to hear that NiMH batteries do not suffer from the dreaded "memory effect" meaning you can charge them as often as you wish and don't have to wait for them to drain completely. When buying these look on the side for the mAh rating, this stands for Milli-Amp Hours and indicates how long they'll last. A 2000mAh will last twice as long as a 1000mAh, higher the number the better.

2) Humidity & Condensation (IMPORTANT)
So you've been out shooting the best winter scenes you've ever shot, you're memory card is full and it's finally time to retire to the warmth of your house for some hot chocolate. If you do this without taking proper precautions you could do damage to both your camera and your lens (or both if the lens is not removable). While you were shooting your camera has dropped quite a bit in temperature and if you bring it inside a nice warm cozy environment all the moisture in the air is going to condense on all the cold parts of your camera. Your lens could get fog between the elements, your sensor could get water droplets on it which dry and leave marks. Essentially a bunch of things you don't want happening.

The solution. The easiest and most common method is to get a large sealable bag (i.e. Ziplock) and put your camera inside before you leave the cold. This way,when you get back inside, the warm humid air of your house (or warm car) is blocked from getting to your camera. Leave the camera in the bag for at least an hour and let it warm up gradually before taking it out of the bag. You might want to remember to take your memory card out of the camera before you put the camera in the bag though, otherwise you'll have to wait an hour or so before you can look at the pictures ;)

Remember, if you have other lenses with you out in the cold that you'll need to do this for every piece of "frozen" equipment.

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