In this article, we’ll discuss winter camera protection. Winter is a time of remarkable icy beauty. Many peoples of the world are deprived of it, while the Western European countries are gifted with it with interest. Snow, frost, frost – all this can be an excellent subject for photography. The same landscape in summer and winter can change beyond recognition.
Swiss winter is famous for its severe frosts. Therefore, photographers often have questions: are negative temperatures safe for photographic equipment? It should be said right away that manufacturers quite specifically indicate the operating temperature range of their products. It can be found both in the specifications and in the instructions for the camera. Usually, it is from 0 to +40° C. That is, there is no talk of shooting in the cold. However, photographers shoot in subzero temperatures without any problems, simply observing some precautions.
9 Winter Camera Protection Tips
In old film cameras, often when shooting in cold weather, grease thickened, and they jammed. I once broke a Zenit camera. Fortunately, this does not happen with modern cameras. People shoot even at -50° C and below, but no one can guarantee full performance at such temperatures. I used my camera at -35° C, and he and I survived by following the tips below.
1. Dress Well
Shooting safety depends a lot on your comfort. Excessive stress from frozen, disobedient hands and the risk of frostbite will not benefit either you or the camera. Dress for shooting in cold weather is not just warm, but very warm. After all, you will spend a lot of time on the street, and not just run from the bus to the subway or from the car to the store, as people usually move in the city in winter.
Warm shoes, a hat, and gloves (mittens) are required. Pay special attention to keeping your hands warm. It is highly inconvenient to press buttons to carry out minor manipulations with frozen hands. Thin fleece gloves, in which you can press the buttons on the camera, are ideal for shooting in a small “minus.”
In severe frost, mittens can also be put on over the same thin gloves, taking them off and remaining in thin gloves correct when shooting. But I can’t recommend any gloves with clipped fingers: they do not warm the coldest places – the fingertips.
2. The Main Enemy is Moisture
Most of all, the device is afraid of frost as temperature changes, especially from “minus” to “plus.” At the same time, moisture can condense on and inside the camera, which leads to a short circuit and serious damage (similar to drowning a camera in water). How can you avoid this?
Have a photo bag with you. Hide your camera in it when not in use. When we come from frost to the warmth (home, in transport), it is unnecessary to get the camera out at the same hour; you should not even open the bag with it.
Let the camera sit in a closed bag for an hour or two and slowly warm up. It will efficiently protect the camera from damage. But you should not hide the camera under warm clothes. At the same time, endless temperature drops will not be beneficial.
3. The Camera Still Fogged Up, What to Do?
What to do if the first tip is not followed, and having come into the warmth with a cold camera, you immediately took it out and saw how it slowly begins to sweat? It is necessary to disconnect it immediately. A simple shutdown won’t be enough.
Remove the battery as soon as possible. It will protect the unit from short circuits. You can turn on the device only after thoroughly warmed up, and the condensation has disappeared.
Do not expose a very foggy camera to frost. Then the condensation will turn into a glaze. It already threatens not only problems with electronics but mechanical damage.
4. Don’t Breathe on The Camera
Human respiration contains a lot of moisture, and this moisture can settle on the body of the apparatus. At very negative temperatures, the camera can become covered with ice in the screen area and the viewfinder if you breathe on it with your mouth or even your nose. It will negatively affect its performance; moreover, all this ice will melt in the photo bag and wet the device. You shouldn’t breathe on the front lens, either.
Moreover, you should not breathe inside the camera when changing lenses. At temperatures below -10° C, I recommend covering your nose and mouth with a scarf or high collar to protect you and the camera from such problems.
5. Keep the Camera Dry
Make sure you have something to wipe your camera with if it does get wet. Bring a few microfiber cloths to shoot. Make sure that snow does not get into the bag. The snow in the bag will turn into the water at the first opportunity. After that, the bag will have to dry for a long time.
6. Use A Moisture-Proof Technique
Many modern cameras and lenses are protected from moisture and dust. It is beneficial when shooting in extreme conditions: in the rain, snow, and temperature changes. After all, snow and ice caught on the camera will turn into the water at the first opportunity, and there will be a risk of damaging the device.
Recall that protection from moisture does not imply bathing the camera in water; it protects it from all kinds of precipitation (rain, snow) from splashes. This kind of protection is called “weather sealing,” that is, “protection from (bad) weather.” To completely immerse the device in water, you will need an aqua box. Only that guarantees waterproofness.
In the Nikon, cameras starting from Nikon D7100 have waterproof protection (see table). But to provide complete protection from moisture, such a protected camera also needs a protected lens. Many popular Nikon lenses are dust and water-resistant. Even a simple Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-S is among them. A complete list of protected lenses is shown in the table below.
Modern Nikon Equipment, Protected from Dust and Moisture
|Nikon SLR Cameras
|Lenses for Nikon SLR Cameras
|Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
|Nikon AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR
|Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
|Nikon AF-S 24–85 mm f/3.5–4.5G ED VR Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR
|Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G
|Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikkor
|Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED AF-S VR Nikkor
|Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VR II
|Nikon 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Nikkor
|Nikon 300mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Nikkor
|Nikon 400mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S II Nikkor
|Nikon 500mm f/4D ED-IF AF-S II Nikkor
|Nikon 600mm f/4D ED-IF AF-S II Nikkor
|Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX Nikkor
|Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II DX Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S DX 18-300mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikkor
|Nikon 18-70mm f3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G DX Nikkor
|Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G
|Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 60 mm f/2.8G ED
7. Stock Up on Batteries
You will be surprised how quickly the batteries drain when shooting in cold weather. So, take extra ones with you. To prolong battery life, keep them warm. Between shooting, you can remove the battery from the camera and put it closer to your body – in your bosom, in your trouser pocket, or a mitten. But you shouldn’t hide the whole camera in your bosom. As we already know, temperature changes in the chamber itself are harmful due to the formation of condensation.
8. Change Lenses Carefully
If it becomes necessary to change the optics, ensure that no snow, moisture, or breathing steam gets inside the device. Hold it with the bayonet down to prevent snow from getting into the camera, and stand with your back to the wind.
9. Take Care of Your Tripod
It is important to remember that all plastics become more fragile in extreme cold. Therefore, if you are shooting from a tripod, take good care of its plastic parts. In cold weather, you can break the clips on the tripod legs. Therefore, it is preferable to use tripods with threaded legs.
In inexpensive tripods, the head on which the camera is held is also plastic. When using such a tripod, there is a risk of head breakage and the apparatus falling – it is better to refuse to use such a tripod when shooting in severe frost.
Upon returning to the warmth, wipe the tripod’s legs and its head dry from water and snow. Otherwise, this water will freeze the next time it goes out into the cold. The icy leg of the tripod will not open; it will jam. Thus, I once walked in the mountains with a tripod that could not be extended.
Also, in frosty conditions, carbon fiber tripods are at risk. Carbon fiber is a material that becomes more fragile in the cold. Therefore, breaking the leg of a carbon tripod in the cold seems quite natural.
It is perfect if there is insulation on the legs of the tripod. It will help prevent freezing to the tripod, even if you work without gloves. You can “insulate” the tripod leg yourself by wrapping it with adhesive tape, which is used to insulate windows. You can tape a layer of foam rubber to your leg: not beautiful, but convenient.
Camouflage tape is also sold in hunting stores, suitable for our purposes. It is enough to insulate one or two tripod legs, for which you will hold it. By the way, the insulation also has a protective function: it will not damage the tripod leg.
Summing up, we can say that for shooting with a serious “minus,” a metal tripod with a threaded leg fixation, a metalhead, and a heater on the legs is best suited.
You may also like to read: 5 Natural Enemies of Camera: How to Protect from Them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Shots Against Snow are Too Dark, What to Do?
Answer: It often happens that when shooting in auto mode or P, A, or S modes, the footage is too dark against a background of snow. It is due to the nature of in-camera exposure metering. Automation believes that the average brightness shades should prevail in the picture. Therefore, in shots with white snow, the brightness is often underestimated.
You should set up a positive exposure compensation or shoot in M mode (manual mode) to prevent this from happening. When making a positive exposure correction, be careful not to overexpose the image. Remember that the snow should not turn into a white spot; details and texture should be readable. The histogram is a good helper here.
Q2. What Color is of the Snow? Adjusting the White Balance
Answer: Every child knows that snow is white. However, do not forget that snow is also reflective. It can be gilded by the rays of the setting or morning sun, and in cloudy weather or at night, it can look bluish. Therefore, in photographs, snow does not have to turn white, like a sheet of paper. It all depends on the lighting.
The white balance should be adjusted not so that the snow in the photo is necessarily white but so that the image looks believable. Don’t be afraid to be creative with your white balance. For example, by making a winter shot a little bluish, you visually convey the feeling of coldness in the photo.