Editor: This is an updated post from Scott Bourne. It seems perfectly timely for the season ahead.
If you want to photograph wildlife (or any subject outdoors) pay attention to these winter considerations:
Snow can cause your camera’s meter to register an improper exposure by fooling the camera into thinking there is more light than there really is. A simple way to avoid this is to fill the frame with the animal or use your camera’s spot meter to make sure you are reading only the light that is striking the animal, not the light that is striking the surrounding areas. See the exposure section if you need a brush up on metering non-medium tones.
Cold weather can also affect your gear. Cold weather shortens battery life. It’s a good idea to keep your spare batteries in a pocket close to your body. Often, if a battery runs low, warming it up will help restore it. Some photographers have actually taped chemical hand warmers to the outside of their cameras over the battery compartment.
Photographing in winter can be a joy, but you need to protect yourself and stay warm. I recommend layering appropriate clothing. That means synthetics or wool instead of cotton. Always have a hat available too.
It’s hard to change film or settings on your camera with frozen fingertips. Glove liners, fingerless gloves, and hand warmers are a few strategies for keeping your hands operating. One product that Rod really likes is the ThermaBand by Crazy Creek. The ThermaBand is a wrist strap made of polar fleece material. It has a pocket that holds a chemical hand-warmer against the wrist, which, according to Crazy Creek, “prevents the radial and ulnar arteries from constricting, increasing blood flow, keeping hands and fingers warmer.” With the ThermaBand, you can wear lightweight gloves or the fingerless flip top mitten gloves. When you do expose your fingers, they stay warm and workable. The hand warmer packets typically last up to seven hours, which, in the winter, means all day.
If your feet are uncomfortably cold or numb, you’re not going to be thinking about making your best photos. You’re going to be thinking that your feet are uncomfortably cold or numb. Combat this problem with chemical toe warmers and insulated boots.
To keep the rest of you going, have some high-energy food snacks in your pocket too.
If you use your head before going out in the cold, the rest of your body will remain comfortable, and you’ll be able to concentrate on your photography.
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