Camera Love: Caring for your camera in the cold
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Christmas might be over but brrr it is still cold. Ew. But you don't wanna let that stop you from going on adventures with your camera. In general, your digital camera should be okay down to 30˚ F. Maybe even lower. But, if like me, you are from somewhere colder than that this time of year, here are some important tips to keep your gear safe in chilly temps.
This is some science-y stuff and that is so not my area of expertise but as I understand it: batteries are powered by chemical reactions and those chemicals can be affected by the cold, which makes them slower. Being slow produces less power and they "die" faster. So, cold isn't necessarily what I would call bad for your batteries but be prepared before cold shoots with extras in case they don't last long enough. There is nothing worse than a dead battery right when you are about to get the perfect shot. Store them somewhere warm. I keep mine in my bra but a pocket should do.
LCD Screens are Slow
I'm pretty sure the science here is similar to the batteries. Cold just makes things run a little slower. You might notice it's kinda sluggish, loses contrast, or goes dark altogether. This is normal and isn't hurting anything. When it warms up it should go back to normal. However, with LCD screens you do need to be careful that no moisture builds up inside. Stay tuned. We talk about that later.
COLD METAL IS DANGEROUS
Wear gloves people! Touching super cold metal is painful! I probably don't have to tell you this. Unless you live somewhere that never gets cold (jealous). And it is even worse if you have moisture on your hands. That's when your skin gets stuck to metal a la the kid's tongue in A Christmas Story. Be careful putting a metal camera up to your face. And be careful slinging your metal tripod over your shoulder.
Plastic Gets Brittle
Plastic tends to have a little give but when it gets cold this give isn't so forgiving. Be more careful opening battery doors and whatnot if your camera body is plastic. They can snap right off if cold enough.
If your tripod is made of plastic beware in the cold. Actually, beware all the time. Trust me, from experience, they just break. Cold or not.
A carbon fiber tripod is a great option. Lightweight and durable. But, it can also get brittle in the cold. So maybe you get an aluminum one. This is close to the one I have. Love it. BUT, like we talked about, cold metal is dangerous. So you could get a wooden tripod. I've never owned one but Oh My Goodness. So beautiful.
Pardon me, I am nerding out about tripods.
If you don't wanna invest in a new tripod just for one cold excursion, turns out they make leg warmers for tripods. I don't know why but this totally makes me giggle.
Film Gets Brittle too
If you are shooting film, first, massive respect from me. Second, film doesn't like the cold at all. If bent, it can snap. I snapped some film recently. It wasn't cold - it was 80+ degrees in Arizona - but semi-devastating none the less.
Another problem you may encounter is static. A major enemy to film because the sparks of static electricity can leave their mark on your film. This can happen more often in the cold because the air can be dry which causes the static buildup. Rewind your film slowly to reduce the chance of sparks, if you have control over it. If your camera does that for you, wait till it warms up to rewind or, if you must rewind, say a little prayer to whatever you believe in and hit the button.
Snow Is Wet
If the snow is coming down hard but you still just gotta get out there and shoot, good on ya. But you need a waterproof case.
This is the one I have and I like it a lot. You have to make sure to do it up right at the top. It requires velcro and lots of rolling but I have had great success with it. I took it snorkeling in the ocean on my honeymoon and didn't have any issues. No water got in and my pictures were clear and sharp.
For a cheaper option, you could try this one or there are expensive options too but you will have to find the specific one for your camera.
Cameras shouldn't sweat
It's okay to give your camera a workout but don't let it get sweaty!
Lots of blogs I have read on the topic say you should transfer it in and out of your coat to keep it warm. DON'T. Your body is warm. Warmth generated by your body is humid. Humid = danger to electronics. You do not want moisture to gather anywhere in your camera. Unless you are totally old school and your camera has no electronics. Then you are safer. But sweaty film is probably not great either. So here's what you do:
Before you go inside, zip your camera up in a Ziploc bag. Bonus points if you can add some of those silica packet thingys that come in your shoe boxes. I hoard those in my junk drawer. They are also great for inside your waterproof case if you shoot in water or snow. If you are not a hoarder (teach me your ways) and order some here.
Then you wanna warm her up slow. Bring her inside but then sit the Ziplock next to a window or chilly part of your house. The camera can get warm slowly this way which helps prevent the sweats. After it sits there for a while bring it to a warmer spot. Let it sit there for a while. Then it should be okay to take her out of the bag.
Maybe this is all a bit over cautious but cameras are expensive. And if you are like me, you like to baby yours.
Stay safe in the cold, kids. And have fun on your winter shoots!