Cold Weather and Your Camera

Snow Stream hdr 13 (2011)
Snow Stream hdr 13 (2011)

As Chester County was getting its first real snow fall of the New Year on Thursday and Friday, I was very anxious about getting out and getting some photography in, but was thwarted with the regular activities of life: Clients, Family, Plowing, Roads, etc.

But I was finally able to get out late yesterday afternoon, to shoot the little stream along Norwood Road heading into Downingtown, which was fairly untouched, except for a single set of tracks left by a dog and it’s owner.

As I trudged through the snow with my camera bag and tripod, I was reminded of an earlier series of comments I made on “cold weather camera tips“, and I thought I would revisited the post to single the content and to add additional thoughts and information.

Heading Out – Things that can slow down

Most people when faced with shooting in cold conditions, generally only think about what cloths and boots they are going to wear to keep them warm during their photographic adventure, which is very important, but it does not stop there.

Your camera also has moving parts that need to be included in your thinking.

The Camera Body

Before the advent of Digital Cameras, Traditional Film based cameras had many more moving parts that one had to be concerned with when working in cold weather.

On Traditional Film Cameras, the Film Transport mechanism and Rollers where usually the most vulnerable as the lubricants became more viscous and in extreme case, freezing altogether.

One also had to be careful with the film itself, because it to could be brittle, and break when being thread into the camera body.

There was also the increase in static electrical charges, that could cause little lighting patterns on the film, especially during the rewinding process.

With Digital Cameras, obviously there is no need to move film, so issues associated with the moving and winding film became less relevant.

In both Film and Digital cameras, the mirror mechanism that allows one to look in to the eyepiece and then see through the lens also has the potential of slowing down as the temperature falls.

Lens

The blades that make up the iris diaphragm or aperture of the lens and the mechanics uses for auto focusing can also be sensitive to the cold. These features may slow down, stick together or freeze, there by not allowing the correct exposure or focus quality.

Batteries

As the temperature falls, the chemicals inside the batteries used to produce a current, will begin to diminish, and at some point, the camera will stop working at all.

Ever have problems starting your Car in the winter?

Needless to say, I keep my batteries as warm as possible, and carry an extra set.

What to do?

The most obvious answer is to keep your camera gear warm by simply keep it near your body for warmth, and do NOT breath heavily on the camera in an attempt to warm it up!

This can cause condensation which is the biggest evil!

Condensation

As mentioned earlier, condensation, which is caused by the sudden changes in temperature, can damage your camera’s electronics.

This usually is a cumulative issue, meaning, it might not happen on the first time, but after many sessions.

What needs to occur, is the gradual transition of temperatures between indoors and outdoors on your camera.

Use your camera bag as a place to help in the transition. The bag’s cushions and partitions will help to absorb the temperature extremes.

It is also good practice to place your equipment into plastic bags as part of the transition and condensation control.

There does seem to be a debate about keeping the camera inside your coat.

Here you have to be sensible, and coordinate with you environment.

Remember:

  1. You body heat is going to make for a larger extreme when you take it out
  2. Your body sweats, adding moisture to the situation

If you have to keep your camera next to you body, use caution and common sense.

When traveling to your destination, keep your gear in the coldest section of your car, like the back and maybe even the trunk. That way, the camera can slowly cool down. Use the reverse when heading home.

In our house, we have a “mud room” area, that is not as warm as the rest of the house, but it is where I can acclimate the camera, before it reaches my office, which also happens to be a colder part of the house!

Other Cold Weather Tips

  • Carry an Extra Set of Batteries
  • Remove the Batteries until needed – Warm Batteries
  • Turn off the LCD screen until needed – Battery Drain
  • Turn off the Auto Focus feature until needed – Battery Drain

I hope you have found this posting useful, so go out an enjoy the cold weather with you camera!

References

– Andrew
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