Weekly Foto Talk: Shooting in Winter, Part III   12 comments

The rugged Sonoma Coast, California.

The rugged Sonoma Coast, California.

Happy New Year!  I’m a day late for Friday Foto Talk, but you know what they say, ‘better late than never.’  No internet access the past few days.  This is the final installment of a three-part post covering photography in the winter months.  I want to encourage you to put in your two cents in the comments below.  Perhaps you’ve found solutions to some of the challenges mentioned, or have other ideas on how to make wintertime shooting more enjoyable.

Be sure to check out Part I, which highlights the very good reasons to continue shooting during winter.  And definitely check out Part II, which provides important tips on exposure plus making sure your camera keeps working in wet and cold weather.

Enjoy the images, even though they are not too wintry, sorry to say.  I wanted to post very recent images, and I’ve been traveling through a very balmy California.  This while the rest of the country freezes!  I didn’t plan it this way, believe me.  Contact me if you’re interested in any of the images, or click on them to go to the main gallery part of my website.  Thanks for looking!

An image from recent desert wanderings, this is from Valley of Fire, Nevada.

An image from recent desert wanderings: Valley of Fire, Nevada.

More Challenges (and Solutions) to Shooting in Winter

      • BATTERIES:  The cold can zap your battery life.  If you’re shooting in frigid weather you can count on this, no matter how good you think your battery is.
      • Solutions:  

        Most important is to go out with  fully charged batteries.  One for the camera and at least one as a spare.  If it’s below freezing, take the extra precaution of keeping your battery in an interior pocket, preferably next to your skin.  Then when you’re ready to shoot just pop the warm battery in your camera.  Keep your extras in a nice warm pocket too.  If you are worried about losing a shot, and if it’s not truly frigid, you can get away with keeping it in the camera.  Just make sure you have a charged backup or two.

        If you are storing your camera overnight in the cold (which is probably better than moving it in and out of the cold), remember to take the batteries out and keep them warm overnight.

The depressions in the rock at bottom are called metates, which are "bowls" made hundreds or thousands of years ago by Native American women grinding grains.

The depressions in the rock at bottom are called metates, which are “bowls” made hundreds or thousands of years ago by Native American women grinding grains.

      • LIGHT:  Light is both a blessing and a challenge in winter.  Mostly it’s beneficial.  But when heavy clouds roll in and days are short, it can be quite dim even at mid-day.  Hand-holding your camera while shooting becomes more difficult with the slower shutter speeds you’ll encounter. This is especially true if your lens isn’t particularly fast (i.e., has a large maximum aperture).

Solutions:  

Use a tripod, even during the day.  It’s that simple.  Another solution is to raise your ISO, thus allowing you to shoot at faster shutter speeds for a given aperture.  But as you might know already, raising ISO can introduce noise into your photos, making them appear less sharp and messing with color gradations.

If you want to go out shooting light and fast (say for candid street photography), use the fastest lens you have.  If you need to raise ISO do it.  It’s better than using a shutter speed that’s too slow and getting blurry pictures.  But even here consider using a monopod to help stabilize your camera in the low light.

The Big Sur coast at dusk.  I love those tall wispy plants which grow all over this coast.

The Big Sur coast at dusk. I love those tall wispy plants which grow all over this coast.

      • TIME:  Short days mean your schedule may make it difficult to shoot during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.  You should be able to hit at least one, but if you live in the far north, maybe not.

Solutions:  

Ask your boss about flex time.  Taking a late lunch can put you right in the sweet spot, light-wise.  When I lived in Alaska I went to work before sunrise (which was about 10 a.m.) and came home well after sunset.  I learned quickly to push for long lunch breaks, at least an hour and a half.  I kept cross-country skis at the office and went out for exercise and light therapy every day, staying behind for a bit longer at the end of the day.  Nowadays I would probably be out shooting as often as skiing.

The important thing is to not make excuses.  Make it happen for at least one time-frame: sunrise or sunset.  Don’t give in to the temptation to sleep in and waste weekend opportunities.

A rare sight in winter, I found these little flowers happily blooming right at the edge of a sea-cliff.

A rare sight in winter, I found these little flowers happily blooming right at the edge of a sea-cliff.

Kelp is a constant along the central California coast, and I so want to take an underwater camera down there someday.

Kelp is a constant along the central California coast.  I want to shoot underwater pictures here someday.

      • COMFORT:  It can be harder in winter to maintain a nice comfort level.  It’s important not to be too uncomfortable when you’re shooting.  You want to be thinking of the shot, not how cold or wet you are.  I don’t mind being a little uncomfortable; it helps me focus on things.  But this is a personal thing.

Solutions:

I put this challenge last for a reason.  In some ways it is the easiest to overcome.  However it is also the most common reason (excuse?) people use, even if they don’t admit it, for not shooting when the weather is bad.

If you won’t be moving much, dress more warmly.  Use that big winter coat.  If you’ll be hiking or snow-shoeing/skiing to your location, layering is the way to go.  You will cool down a lot when you stop, so have enough with you to bundle up.

A good warm hat is paramount because most heat is lost through your head.  Since wet or cold feet can torpedo anyone’s motivation, your socks and boots should be up to the task.  If you’ll be splashing through streams or walking in wet snow, wear waterproof boots and wool socks.  I have a pair of neoprene socks that I sometimes wear under goretex light hiking boots in typically wet Oregon conditions.  This is when I’m wading through streams in search of that perfect shot of a waterfall or dipper (a bird).

Wind demands a good parka to block it. When it rains consider rain pants as well as a waterproof jacket.  Fleece makes a great mid-layer but does little to stop rain or wind.  I like silk long underwear if temps. are only moderately cold, a thicker pair if it’s colder.

Gloves are worth more consideration than usual because of the need for both dexterity and warmth.  When it’s near freezing or below, I like thin liner gloves underneath warm (ski-type) gloves.  If it’s not too cold, fingerless gloves can work well.  An intermediate solution is thin liner gloves under thicker wool fingerless gloves.  Work diligently at keeping your fingers from getting numb.  You want them to work when the moment is right.

This time of year is in many ways the best time to shoot.  Take the extra time to prepare and you will be rewarded with great light and beautiful images. Thanks for sticking with this little series.  Have a great weekend!

A yucca at sunset, Anza Borrego State Park, California.

A yucca at sunset, Anza Borrego State Park, California.

The low setting sun illuminates the historic Bixby Bridge near Big Sur, California.

The low setting sun illuminates the historic Bixby Bridge near Big Sur, California.

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12 responses to “Weekly Foto Talk: Shooting in Winter, Part III

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  1. Happy New Year, anmd thanks for the advice. The yellow, small floers is my favorite, but all your photographs are excellent as always.

  2. Sorry for my belate rection; we wish you a Happy New Year too, Michael! Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge with us and inspiring us yet again.
    Love, Dina

  3. Beautiful shots. I so enjoy viewing your wonderful work and reading the great tips you share. Happy 2014 to you!

  4. Nice summation of points to heed in winter. You reminded me to get another battery as a back-up. This winter we’ve had incredible sunsets. Your image of the “bowls” in the stone brought strong emotion. Thanks for the explanation.

  5. Gorgeous shots, all of them. I especially like the little yellow flowers.

    From the tundra of Illinois…………….

  6. Great shots 🙂

  7. I was talking about the 1st shot, but that last one is wicked too! Good stuff! 😉

  8. Nice shot. Looks like a good day to be out there.

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