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The following post on cold weather photography submitted by Matthew G. Monroe.
For those of us who live in the earth’s Northern Hemisphere, Winter isn’t set to be over — officially — for another two weeks.
For those of us who live North of the 45th Parallel, Winter isn’t set to be over — realistically — for at least another month-and-a-half.
For those of us who are pretty much sick of the whole deal — especially the long nights and continuous cold and damp — well, there’s really not a whole lot of immediate relief in sight. Perhaps a trip down to the balmier parts of the Southern Hemisphere (Mmmmmm… Australia) would provide for a quick and easy cure of the Wintertime blues. Unfortunately — in my household at least — no flights have been booked.
Myself, being firmly entrenched in the Northern Hemisphere (and living just 27 miles North of the 45th Parallel), I’m kinda’ resigned to the fact that just about any and all outdoors shooting that I do in the local area is going to take place under less than ideal conditions — at least for the next month-and-a-half. Trust me, I’ve already spent more than enough time this past January and February freezing my butt off while taking pictures outside, and I’m not really looking forward to the next forty-five days or so…
On the other hand, no matter how cold it is outside (and no matter which portion of my left and/or right hindquarter slowly ends up as a frozen butt-sicle), I almost always manage to work outside — taking pictures and snapping away — with warm and toasty hands.
Yes… And there’s no real secret involved… In fact, I have to admit that it’s pretty obvious. I keep my hands warm and toasty by wearing the thickest, heaviest set of mittens I can find.
But don’t the mittens interfere with my ability to operate a camera?
Hmmmm… To a certain extent… But even with the thickest set of mittens that I have, I’m still able to operate the the zoom ring on all my lenses. My aperture and shutter speed dials can also be operated (I shoot with a Nikon D200) while wearing mittens. The only thing that I can’t operate well while wearing thick heavy mittens is — unfortunately — the most important “thingy” on my camera…
The shutter release button.
Fortunately, there is a work-around that’s just head-slappingly simple, and it also also allows for auto-focus to work perfectly.
My secret for shooting in the cold — all while wearing mittens and keeping my hands toasty warm is…
I use a shutter release cable.
To be more specific, when I’m working outside and the temperature is right on the verge of freeze-yer-butt-off cold (basically, anything colder than 15 degrees Fahrenheit), I simply place a camera release cable (also known as a “shutter release cable” or “remote cable”) inside the mitten of my “trigger hand,” and then just rest one of my toasty warm fingers on the cable’s shutter button. I’m then able to pre-focus my camera by holding the shutter button halfway down (assuming that I’m in auto-focus mode), and I can trigger the camera by — well — triggering the camera. My other hand (also in a mitten) supports the camera and adjusts the focal length of my lens. The beauty of this technique is that my hands always end up being nice and warm inside a pair of mittens — which sure beats the alternative. Trust me on this one, frostbite really, really sucks.
Do I use ever use gloves (or go barehanded) rather than wear mittens? Sure… When the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit and there isn’t a strong wind blowing — otherwise, I try to keep both hands in mitts at all times.
P.S.: 20 degrees Fahrenheit is roughly minus 6.6 degrees Centigrade; 15 degrees Fahrenheit is about minus 9.4 degrees Centigrade.
Read more of Matthew’s work at his blog.