Tips for Winter Wildlife Photography - Part 1 of 2
Most people can be divided into two groups when it comes to winter: the one that hates the cold (Julie🥶) and the one who loves it (me😎).
Fact is that around here (central Alberta), it gets cold in winter, very cold, but that also makes for great photos.
Whether you love or hate the cold, taking photos is a bit more difficult at -40C than at +20C. Taking pics on a scorching summer day at +35 C is a different story for another post – look for that one closer to summer 😉
For now, here are a few things that will help you take awesome pics without freezing anything off.
First and foremost – Be Prepared aka Personal Safety
In case something happens, like getting stuck for example...
I managed to get stuck in a ditch once. The temperature was -37C and I was in a remote-ish area. I missed a curve on a snow-blown road, a wheel got caught on the edge and dragged me into the ditch. Even with AWD and shoveling for nearly an
hour, I couldn’t get out – AMA did (thank you again).
BUT I was not overly worried because of the following:
People knew where I was
I had a fully charged cell phone (with emergency numbers, like AMA, saved in it)
I had food and drinks for at least 2 days (squirrel over-packer here) including a large 2l thermos filled with hot water
I had winter gear (clothes, boots, gloves, toque) that would have kept me comfortable for hours, even outside.
Moral of this tale: sh❄t happens but it is easier to deal with when you are prepared!
▶ Have emergency supplies (water, food, clothing) with you
▶ Keep your phone fully charged (in case your car battery dies)
▶ Have a map book or map with you (something that can help you navigate without batteries)
▶ Let someone else know where you are going and when you plan on being back (and what you are driving)
Camera and photo gear
Wintry weather can be hard on your batteries and all batteries perform worse in the cold than in warmer weather. So, keep a spare battery (or two) with you, ideally close to your body where it can stay warm.
Memory cards are not affected by the cold as far as I have noticed, but it doesn’t hurt to keep a spare card in a warm place too.
The camera can handle cold temperatures for awhile but may have issues when out in the cold for too long.
Personally, I'm a Nikon-shooter (30-ish years) and I've had some of my cameras exposed to -30C and colder for over an hour and never had any issues, but you should read your camera manual and, if in doubt, follow their recommendations.
In any case, if your camera slows down in the cold, check the battery first - it might just be getting low.
If you changed your battery and the camera still behaves oddly, take it into your car and let it warm up SLOWLY. For example, stick it in the camera bag, close the bag and let it warm up on its own (for a couple of hours or so).
Do not try to speed things up and DO NOT change lenses in a warm environment while the camera is cold.
Cold camera-electronics and -sensors can be ideal for condensation and that can severely damage your camera or kill it entirely.
Just be patient if you have time or end the day early, save your camera and go out another day.
If you have the option (and I realize not everyone does) of a second camera body and lens combo, use one while the other one stays warm and sheltered in the car and switch them out occasionally.
… to be continued