Shooting in the Snow
Winter is coming people!
It’s that time again, I’m back to share my weekly dose of photographic wisdom under the lovingly crafted hashtag – #HybridDaveTuesdays
This week it’s something I feel I have a good standing to talk about due to my love of cold places. I’m going to tell you about shooting in the cold in the form of a list. If the internet has taught me only one thing it’s that everybody loves a list, right? By the way, I realise that winter is only approaching in the northern hemisphere and I’m kinda excluding half of the population of the entire world, but I’m finding peace from that with the knowledge that you southerners are about to have your Christmas BBQ’s fired up!
So here goes!
Tip #1 – Never delete anything in camera!
Snow is a funny old thing. It tricks our cameras as well as our eyes. There WILL be shots you look at of snowy scenes on the back of your camera that look terrible, but then when you get them up in Lightroom or Camera Raw they’ll look amazing following a tweak or two.
Tip #2 – Keep your gear cold
When you take your gear from cold to warm (like in and out of a hotel or rental car) it puts a strain on it. Once it’s cold, keep it cold. It can short out the electrics if condensation forms inside the camera. The worst thing you can do is to actively try and warm your gear up or try to make it warm near the heat vent or under your ski jacket. Furthermore, if you see that shot and pull out your camera but it instantly fogs you’ll have nothing to show your friends! I remember shooting in Finnish Lapland where I visited the Wild Spirit Animal park and just after meeting Romeo the wooly pig and before meeting Spike the Husky I was taken into a small, round cabin with a fire burning inside for a hot drink to warm me up. I left my camera outside on a pile of wood so it stayed cold and was ready to shoot again as soon as I was back out.
Tip #3 – Except your batteries. Keep them warm!
There’s some science here. I mean, I don’t know what it is, but it’s here! So basically, if your batteries are exposed to the cold they’ll lose power quicker. I’ve experienced this first hand, it definitely happens. I was shooting the northern lights in the Icelandic Westfjords up on top of a mountain. I couldn’t feel my face, it was that cold. Whatever was happening to my batteries due to the cold happened pretty quick. The power was just going. What I discovered is that if I kept my batteries in my inside pockets my body heat kept them going for longer.
Tip #4 – Then warm your gear back up slowly!
I learned this the hard way! Kirkjufellsfoss, shown below, is an iconic Icelandic waterfall with it’s namesake mountain right behind it. Take a look here though – I have a nice wide lens mounted on my Nikon D810 but the middle of the shot is all hazy and soft. This is a direct result of having moisture build up inside the lens. It’s virtually impossible to remove in post because it ruins a whole portion of the image. Bottom line is to consider ways to warm your gear up slowly. Put it in the boot of the rental car where it’s that little bit colder and far from the heating, and put it inside your bag (closed) when you take it indoors so that it gradually adjust to the new, warmer climate. If your camera does get moist for any reason, keep it somewhere dry and of a consistent temperature, and leave ALL of the ports wide open to give the moisture an easy escape.
Tip #5 – Overexpose for white snow
What our eyes see as pure, white snow filling the landscape, our camera sees as overexposed and so brings your camera down a notch or two. To combat this, it’s a wise idea to shoot a little over. It’s the number one tip you’ll always see on advice for shooting snow but it’s easily overcome so just be mindful of it and shoot over – you can always bring things back down in Photoshop if you’re way too bright. On a sidetone, your Auto White Balance will often change things a little towards to blue end – another thing to bear in mind. If you’re the type to use a grey card or a light meter then fine, but I’m not and I consider it all in post.
Tip #6 – Don’t concentrate only on snow
There’s so much more going on and snowy scenes are in themselves very romantic, I find. This shot below is of a couple stood alone outside the beautiful House of the Roundheads in Riga and although they’re only a tiny feature of the images, they add to it just enough. As with everything you shoot, snow has a tendency to get very ‘samey’ and breaking it up with details, much like you would when shooting a wedding, you’re giving it a new perspective and engaging your audience and lifting interest.
Tip #7 – Shoot the fauna
Even if it’s hard to find some! There are two animals which epitomise Iceland – horses and puffins – and here’s 50% of that combo! Shooting animals helps give a sense of their hardiness to the testing climates they find themselves in and if you get it right, showing their character, it can give the viewer an intense connection!
Tip #8 – And the flora
Good luck finding some! Much like the animals, showing the hardiness of the plant life can create a connection between the viewer and the image. It mixes up and breaks up the images of snow scene after snow scene too!
Tip #9 – Capture the festivities
There’s a 50% chance (hemispherically) that winter means it’s Christmas! Alongside this, there’s so much going on and it all tends to give contrast to the cold. Warm fires, hot chocolates and fairground rides – it’s all beautiful, especially when you capture it right. Going to a Christmas market with a camera can yield some awesome results.
So there’s 9 tips for shooting in the cold, I hope you can use them! Right now I’m in Tromsø, Norway, way up in the Arctic Circle (oh the power of the internet!) and you can check my progress on my Instagram story or on Facebook to see the snow I’m seeing :)
Until next time!