Writing with Light

Winter Photography Tips

With all the images I’ve been posting this week of the  Cannington Dog Sled Race ( you can see them here and here) I’ve also received quite a few questions and comments about what I was wearing that day to stay warm and dry. Good questions and if you haven’t spent hours outdoors shooting in -12C  (that was the temperature that day) but you’re thinking about it then grab a hot cuppa java and read on.Cannington, Dog Sled Races, Ontario, mush, musher, snow dogs, siberian husky, winter sport, snow,

Now let me start by being completely honest. I don’t like the cold! I’m not a huge fan of winter. I do like a fresh snowfall, it’s very pretty. I like a white Christmas but by the second week of January I’ve generally had it. As a matter of fact as I write this I’m dreaming of white sandy beach with turquoise waters somewhere far away….

Sorry I digress, back to preparing for a winter shoot. The following are tips that will ensure a successful photography outing as well as keeping safe, warm and dry.

  1.  Charge up your batteries the day before. The cold weather will drain your batteries quicker then normal so make sure you have a back up with you.
  2. Dress in layers. Knowing that the forecast for the day was going to be about -12C I knew that I would need a few layers to keep me warm and dry. Use a base layer (top and bottom), which essentially acts as your second skin. It should be made from a wicking material such as merino wool that will pull sweat away from your body but provide a layer of warmth. Do not wear a cotton base layer. When you sweat (and chances are you will even if your bundled up because your going to be trekking) the cotton will absorb the sweat but it will stay wet and you will be cold.
  3. Wear a pair of ski/snow pants over your base layer. Make sure your snow pants are waterproof and that they have reinforced cuffs and boot gators. This will prevent snow from getting inside your boots.
  4. On top, over the base layer, I wore a fleece pullover and a ski jacket with a hood. Believe me the hood comes in handy if it’s really windy and the snow is blowing.
  5. This goes without saying but wear a hat. If your head isn’t insulated the bodies core temperatures drops more rapidly but despite scientific findings believe you’ll be happier with a warm head and ears.
  6. Gloves! My hands were my biggest concern. If my fingers get too cold not only can I not shot for long periods but depending on how cold it gets you can risk frostbite. At the beginning of this winter, knowing that I was going to be shooting outdoors with animals I purchased a pair of gloves for photographers with the tips of the forefinger and thumb that bend backwards allowing you to be able to manage your cameras’ controls. I wore them for a shot in December when the temperature wasn’t below zero and my hands were freezing. They just didn’t work for me. What I did for my day shooting the dog sled races is I purchased a pair of thin merino wool liner gloves. I wore these as a base layer under a pair of ski gloves. While walking from place to place I wore both gloves. While shooting I removed the ski glove from my right hand and with the liner on I was able to manage my cameras controls easily.  NOW HERE’S YOUR TIP OF THE DAY…. Get your self some disposable hand warms and keep them in your jacket pocket. While waiting for the next dog sled to come around I would put my hand in my pocket and it warm up my right hand. This way I didn’t have to keep taking the ski glove off and put it on and potentially. Issuing a shot.
  7. Make sure your boots are warm and waterproof. You could be standing in one place for a couple of hours so you want to make sure your toes stay warm.
  8. Taking care with your camera is just as important in these types of conditions. If you’ve been outdoors and need to head inside for a coffee or a bathroom break then put your camera away in your camera bag and leave it in the car if that’s possible. If your car isn’t close by then pack your camera in you bag before going inside. If you wear glasses you know that when you come in from the cold your glasses will fog up immediately when you come in from the cold. The same thing will happen to your camera and lens. The condensation can cause some real damage to your camera so you need to let it acclimatize to the difference in temperature. Once I got home I waited a coupe of hours before unzipping my camera bag.

I hope this helps and gives you some good guidelines to help you plan for a day shooting out in the cold and snow.

Have a great weekend.

cannington, Dog Sled Races, Ontario, mush, musher, snow dogs, siberian husky, winter sport, snow,

39 responses

  1. AB

    I can’t stop smiling, then title lead me to believe that I will learn some great tips about photography techniques and you will reveal your amazing winter photo shoot secrets 🙂 now I know, it is all how you dress 😉 hope you don’t mind my jest 🙂


    February 7, 2014 at 7:40 am

    • Not at all but now you made me think I should right a post about winter shooting techniques. Thank you 🙂


      February 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

  2. Good advices, Edith! and wonderful shots! Take care and have a fabulous week-end! 😉


    February 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

  3. I love the pink amidst the snow! Beautiful dogs! I bet that was a fun, but cold, shoot!


    February 7, 2014 at 8:06 am

  4. Len

    Nice post and images Edith. Those tips are spot on. I might add a trick I use when taking my camera and lenses from warm to cold environments. I put the gear in individual baggies. That way any fogging up is on the baggie and not the gear. Stay warm!


    February 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

    • Thanks so much Len and thank you for the added tip. I’ll try that the next time I’m out.


      February 7, 2014 at 10:20 am

  5. These are great tips – I think I follow your dressing regimen to a T. The glove liners inside ski mittens is the best. I keep the handwarmer tucked inside, but I do wear mittens (technically for snowboarding) instead of gloves as my outer hand layer. Another good thing to consider would be some kind of ice cleats.


    February 7, 2014 at 9:18 am

    • Thanks so much Heather. The ice cleats are a great idea. Luckily it wasn’t too ice just alot of deep snow but I’ll have to get myself a pair for next time.


      February 7, 2014 at 10:24 am

  6. As usual great tips, especially about the photographer’s gloves. Ugh, how do you do it? I’m a lover of nature, and very grumpy with our bitter cold in the Mid Atlantic, but -12C is hardly something that I could handle. Good job for braving and withstanding the harsh elements.


    February 7, 2014 at 9:30 am

    • Thanks very much Sally. Believe me I would much prefer to shoot in warm weather. But honestly after 3 hours out there, aside from my toes which were cold by that point I was comfortable.


      February 7, 2014 at 10:28 am

  7. I love the tongue hanging out on the dog. Not being able to relate to living in snow, I don’t even have a pair of waterproof boots! But I love looking at it. 🙂 Thank you for the beautiful pics!


    February 7, 2014 at 10:27 am

  8. Great tips. My biggest problem has always been my fingers freezing. I had tried the gloves with the tips that flip back and they didn’t work for me either. I wear the double gloves now too. My bottom gloves have finger tips that allow me to use my camera and cell phone without having to take them off. It’s not perfect, but its the best I’ve found too


    February 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

  9. Ha! What a face! Love that big guy in the first photo!


    February 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm

  10. Excellent advice Edith! Smashing post!


    February 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

  11. Thank you so much for the tips, Edith.
    I am usually okay with the exception of my fingers. Will definitely try the hand warmers.
    Have a great weekend!


    February 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

  12. Ha! Great shot again Edith, nice work, I HATE shooting in the cold, my hands cannot take it, and they do not make camera friendly gloves that I can find, but your right about the hand warmers, I used these extensivley at a NFL championship game where the Temp was well below zero before kickoff….my beer froze!


    February 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

  13. How fun. Great pictures Edith!


    February 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm

  14. Amazing! Love, love, love these photographs!


    February 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

  15. Good advice Edith. My friend tried dogsledding this year and loved it. Must add it to my bucket list 🙂


    February 8, 2014 at 10:19 pm

  16. great shots & post…dear pal…:-)))


    February 9, 2014 at 5:06 am

  17. For someone who doesn’t like the cold, Canada is a hard place to live. I don’t do well in cold climates, and that’s why I ended up moving from New York to Texas.


    February 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

  18. good advice to all


    February 11, 2014 at 11:47 am

  19. Great tips. These are very useful for a California boy like me. I’m very much out of my element in the snow.


    February 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    • Thanks David.Believe me I’d much rather be in a warmer climate right now. This has been a brutal winter.


      February 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

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