I have been in a lot of awful weather. Shooting surfing in the Arctic is probably as bad as it gets – salt water corrodes your cameras, and the rain, snow, and ice just tear everything apart. In Iceland, in the shot above, it was not only brutally cold, but the wind was howling and the snow was pounding down as Raph Bruhwiler and Nate Zoller got ready to paddle out into an epic lineup.
If you pursue making great photos during real adventures – which you do, right? – you’ll inevitably find yourself in situations where the elements are putting your pricey gear at risk.. If you have the forethought to be prepared for these circumstances, you’ll be able to take some really unique pictures.
1. Don’t Open Your Camera Outside
Nothing trashes a camera faster than dust, water, or snow on the sensor or in the electronics. If you need to change a lens or memory card, do it inside the shelter of a building or car. If you don’t have access to indoors, do it inside your jacket. And if you don’t even have that, turn your back to the wind and bend over to cup your body and protect the camera.
2. Don’t Bring a Cold Camera Into a Warm Place
Been ski touring all day and then come into the hut? Leave your camera inside your bag until its temperature equalizes with the indoor air – cold metal exposed to warm, often humid air will result in massive condensation on the camera and lens.
3. Carry Silica Gel Packets
I travel with these in all of my bags, as moisture can wreak havoc on digital equipment. Sometimes it’s the most basic problems that get overlooked, and while good cases go a long way toward protecting your gear, they don’t always keep all the moisture out (especially condensation).
4. Clean With Camp Towels
I use microfiber camping towels all of the time. Cut them in two and use them as lens and drying cloths. Just be sure to keep them inside your jacket or bag.
5. Save Power With Hand Warming Packets
In addition to keeping your fingers (and sometimes toes) warm, tucking a packet or two in with your batteries will help them last a little bit longer in extreme cold. Sub-freezing conditions can suck the life out of batteries and almost always reduce the number of shots you’ll get before they die – a little extra warmth will stack the odds in your favor.
6. Adapt With Plastic Bags
When it’s pouring and you still have to get the shot, you can always get inventive with a heavy duty plastic bag and some gaff or duct tape. The MacGyver approach can work in a pinch, but protection like the Aquatech Weathershield also will allow you to keep going all day without worrying about your gear getting soaked.
7. Always Use Lens Filters
Whether it’s a polarizer, neutral density, or UV filter, having a protection over the front element of your lens in gnarly situations will help protect its expensive coatings. If your filter gets thrashed you might be out a few bucks, but it’s far cheaper than buying a new lens or replacing an element.
8. Think Twice About Shooting
Blowing snow is challenging, but ultimately is just water. If you’re in the desert or at the beach and the wind is howling, though, consider not shooting at all. Sand can devastate your gear, especially the focusing or zoom rings on lenses, and it’s shocking how quickly fine-grained grit can get into your stuff. Is the shot worth it? Sometimes the answer is no.
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