Walking in a Winter Wonderland: Tips For Winter Photography
Winter can be a wonderful time for outdoor photography with low sun angles, unique atmospheric conditions and landscapes that are magically transformed. Winter can also be a challenging time to shoot too, beyond the obvious reason that it’s cold! Everything related to the camera and access to locations is more difficult than in summer but the rewards are more images that you’ll hang on to. Before you take a step outside into the cold and snowy winter wonderland, a little preparation is needed to ensure you’re comfortable behind the lens. It’s challenging to make comforting images if you aren’t comfortable to begin with!
Here are a few tips I can offer for shooting when the temperature drops and snow covers the land:
Hand warmers – These packets of awesomeness are a game changer. Cold hands are a thing of the past and if your hands do get cold for a moment, these little warmers feel even warmer. Simply slide them inside your mittens and your hands stay warm. Simple as that! Be sure to activate the warmers before you step outside though, ensuring they actually work. Occasionally, you’ll get a defective one and you don’t want to find this out when you’re outside. Trust me.
Mittens with thin glove liners – Mittens are warmer than gloves but make camera operation nearly impossible. A thin glove liner that you can wear inside your mittens keep your fingers toasty and allow you to actually use your camera when removing your mitten. Once you’ve taken a shot(s), slide your hand into your already toasty warm mitten.
Coat with a hood – Hats of some sort are a must, no need to elaborate on this. For added warmth, wear a coat with a hood and once you’re stopped to photograph, put on the hood of your jacket. Once you’re ready to move to the next spot, remove your hood so you don’t overheat. More on overheating below.
Snow Boots – There are a wide range of boots available for snowy conditions. I won’t go into the details here but find one that is appropriate for your usage. You don’t need Himalayan expedition boots to walk around your neighborhood but you’ll want something a bit more rugged if you’re using snow shoes. Most boots are insulated and durable so they should last many years without a problem. Waterproofing is a must and most boots are waterproof out of the box.
Thick Socks – Depending on your boots, I’d recommend finding one that you can wear 2 pairs of thick socks with. With proper boots and thick socks, toes and feet stay quite warm. There are also foot warmer packets, much like the hand warmers, that slide inside your boot and do a great job at keeping your toes warm. If it’s not terribly cold, they can actually be too warm and can feel uncomfortable. Also, they’re not too comfortable while hiking so I’d recommend using them only if you’re remaining relatively stationary or for shorter walks.
Hot Beverage – Warmth from the inside:) Coffee, tea or flavored water all make for great choices but my go to hot drink is tea. Filling an insulated thermos with hot tea ensures a steaming hot beverage once you’ve stopped at your shooting location. I can’t emphasize this tip enough. A hot beverage is almost crucial to being comfortable outside in the cold. There are a million different thermos options and most work remarkably well. For hiking, I use a smaller one that stays hot for 8+ hours and is relatively light.
It’s Colder Than You Think – No matter the temperature, it feels colder. Standing in one place is when the cold and discomfort can start to affect you. I usually bring an extra insulated jacket that I can put on once standing behind the tripod or while taking a break. Down or synthetic insulated jackets pack down very small so put it in your bag. Windchill is also something to take into consideration as 0 F with no wind can feel warmer than 30 F and a strong wind.
Stay Moving – The cold probably won’t affect you much while you’re walking or hiking to your location, but once you stop to set up, the cold will creep in. Walking in small circles, jumping up and down or pacing back and forth can help keep your blood flowing. You may look weird but don’t worry, you’re already weird for being outside in the cold;)
Don’t Sweat – This is important and somewhat counterintuitive. With extra clothes on, it doesn’t take much exertion to fool your body into sweating, no matter the temperature. Damp clothing next to your skin will make you highly uncomfortable once you come to a stop to take photos. The key is a mellow walking pace at all times. If you have to hike for a while to get to the spot you’re shooting at, don’t wear your thick coat while doing so. A lighter jacket will be just fine while continuously moving and allow maximum breathability. Once you’ve stopped, immediately put on your thicker insulated jacket. If you are sweating, you’re either moving too fast or you’ve over dressed. A mellow walking pace is key to preventing overexertion and thus sweating.
ENJOY – The single most important tip! Once prepared, being outside in the Winter is a wonderful experience. You’ll hopefully begin so see the world around you differently and find the beauty of this season. In my mind, everything looks better when covered in snow:)
I hope you find some use in these tips for your next outdoor photography session. As I stated earlier, being comfortable is key to making nice winter photos. There is more to discuss about Winter photography in regards to the camera. I’ll save that for a future post. So go out and capture some of Winter’s magic and if you live somewhere without Winter, you just earned a gold star for reading this far! If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,