10 Tips for Cold Weather Photography


Since we just experienced one “Polar Vortex“, I thought I would write about some tips for venturing out during the next cold snap to photograph. Extreme cold is great for water falls, snow, and icicles. Plus, most other people won’t venture out, so you will have a lot of solitude!


  1. Dress warmly and in layers. If you are hiking you will have too much on and things will heat up because you need to dress for standing or sitting still for a while for your shooting. Dressing in layers and having jackets with ventilation really helps. Don’t get so warm you sweat, or you can get very cold when you stop.
  2. Don’t wear cotton. This was hard for me to say a while back as I grew up in Mississippi where “Cotton is King”, but your layers need to be synthetic. Capilene, polartec, Smartwool are all names to look for. Most come in different weights and it depends on the temperature and your activity. They also wick moisture away from your body and they release moisture so the don’t stay wet ( like cotton will).
  3. Pac boots.. Most hiking boots are fine, if your are moving, but once you stop for a long time for photography, your feet will get cold. I discovered Pac boots when I first started going to Yellowstone in the winter. Sorel, Merrell,and  Vasquez all make good winter insulated boots. You don’t need lots of socks… One pair of liner socks and one good pair of ski or heavy hiking socks will do. If you wear too many socks and your feet are cramped in your boots, they will get cold.BMC_20140114_1010580
  4. Head and face.. In medicine we used to say that you lost 50% of your body heat through your head.. We now know that this is not true, but you will loose more heat if your head is uncovered.. And your face and ears will be subject to possible frostbite.. So cover up head and face when temps drop below 20 F.BMC_20140114_1010588
  5. Hands.. It is hard to shoot ( both physically and mentally) if your hands are cold and hurting. I usually use heavy fingerless gloves, but put a very thin pair of liner gloves underneath. If it is really cold ( and lots of snow around), I wear waterproof mitten shells over the gloves. These actually have a ” leash” which tethers them to my wrist, so when I take them off, they don’t go very far.BMC_20140114_1010585 BMC_20140114_1010584 BMC_20140114_1010591
  6. Hand warmers.. Those chemical heat packs come in handy in your pocket. Open then up to activate them and they will be ready if your hands get cold..
  7. Batteries… Seem to do better than they used to, but carry a spare in an inside pocket with one of those chemical packs.  Also, when your battery runs down, put it in an inside pocket and you might be surprised to see it come back to life.
  8. Lens.. DO NOT BLOW ON LENSES. The moisture in your breath will freeze to the glass and definitely give you that frosty look all day.. Use your bulb blower to clean off lenses.. You should be doing this anyway. I take a camel hair painters brush to wipe off snow from lens and equipment..
  9. Watch spraying water.. It will freeze to your clothing and your equipment. Last week, while photographing waterfalls, I was very close and the spray froze to my carbon fiber tripod leg. Took a little work to get it off to be able to collapse the legs. Also, if your tripod gets wet or icy, take it apart at night or at least extend the legs completely to let them dry out.. If they are wet inside the leg when you go out the next day into frigid weather, they will freeze and may not work.
  10.  Tripod in snow.. If you are in a place where the snow is deep, not completely extend your legs outward before putting down into snow. If you extend them out so they are tight against their stops at the top and then force the legs into the snow, it will cause even more force on the top of the leg. I have seen the top of a tripod break like this (the base that attaches to the legs and holds your ballhead). BMC_20140107_D803435

One Response to “10 Tips for Cold Weather Photography”

  1. Excellent Ideas and tips

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