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Tips for shooting in cold weather

The best photos are taken in extreme weather conditions; immediately after heavy rain  or when it is extremely cold outside. In addition to the right equipment, you need to equip yourself with proper knowledge and preparation. In all what matters, no photo is worth dying for. Have a plan for your expedition and be prepared before, during, and after you come back home.

Before leaving home

  1. Spare batteries: your batteries hate the cold. It cause them to discharge faster. Recharge your DSLR battery and have your spare batteries freshly recharged overnight. To keep your spare batteries even more protected from the cold, put them inside your clothing layers so as to keep them nicely warm, 
  2. Camera bag: a camera backpack is great for keeping your gear clean and protected from the elements. Winter weather is no exception to this equation. 
  3. Big plastic bag: this is used for moisture and condensation purpose later on when you come back from your "expedition"
  4. Fingerless gloves: to be able to manipulate all you buttons and gear settings.

Now you are outside? Here are some shooting tips

  1. Cold winter air is generally clearer than warm summer air. It contains less moisture and less pollution. This condition by itself will increase your photos clarity and saturation alone. Great!
  2. Snow? No problem but you need to know the following... When there is snow it is a brighter exposure. Your light meter will be fooled and will try to darken the scene. Use exposure compensation of +1EV or less. Don't over expose as you won't be able to recover highlights in post-processing. In bright sun consider using your lens hood unless you are intentionally using the sun flare as an effect in your photo. 
  3. White Balance usually is tricky in snowy situations. Tend to use Kelvin measure around 5500 and adjust so as to balance the warm cast against the bluewish effect in your photos. Always shoot RAW so as to adjust and fine tune white balance in post-processing software.
  4. Consider a UV filter. It protects your lens from winter conditions and will reduce haze in your photos.
  5. Consider a polarizing filter. It will reduce specular highlights and snow and water reflections. The polarizing filter will also saturate your blue colors.

When you come back inside

  1. Remove your memory card from your DSLR.
  2. Put your camera(s) and lens(es) into the air plastic bag you took with you before going out. Moisture and condensation will want to form on a cold object introduced into a warm place. The plastic bag will will ensure that your camera and lens / gear will stay dry while they warm up. Leave them inside for about one to two hours while you get yourself some hot tea and working on your computer.

Conclusion

Extreme weather, be it cold, heat, rain, snow, etc, requires intelligent precautions, common sense, and a plan for overall safety. If you are planning your next photography expedition to be in Antarctica or Alaska :) or even have another tip for the brave photographers outside, share your thoughts below.