Taking pictures in harsh cold

Trees under heavy snow in Finland

I was recently taking pictures outside in a temperature about -30C. I noticed that at such temperature, when you repeatedly take off your lens cap or changing filters without gloves or thin cloves that are warm due to your own body temperature, then it may happen that your filter glass or the front

Empty harbor beside misty sea

element of the lens (if not using filters) freeze up due to humid and warmth coming from the thin gloves or bare hand. When the the front glass or filter is frosty, then it is highly suggested not to scratch off the ice. You may end up ruining your lens of filter. I used filters (sometimes UV, sometimes CP). Both my filters got frozen because when I took off the lens cap and my palm was too close to the filter. I changed the filter then to CP but same thing again, humid from the glove fell to the filter glass and ice became onto the filter immediately. I was wondering what I was doing wrong, how could that happen.

- I noticed that I should not hold filters above the palm with more than 2 fingers. If i held the filter from side, everything was fine.

- To get the ice off from the filter glass, I noticed that when waving the filter in the air, a thin layer of frost steams away and filter is ready to use again. At least it worked for me.

A lighthouse in the mist near sea

About tripod head, hours and hours outside at -30C the liquid (oil or whatever is used there) becomes very stale and turning bars is almost impossible. I was using Manfrotto 410 Junior head which is not a ball head. I think the cold is not a problem for ball heads.

Old batteries do die quickly at that temperature, even if not using LCD at all. To lengthen battery life, take of the battery from the camera while not shooting (even if you have to walk 5-10 minutes until you take next shot) and put it inside your glove. The warmth from the palm really makes the battery to last longer. I also bought a new battery (not original, made by unknown :) and just amazing how well it performed at such temperature. So, new batteries for cold weathers are definitely better than old ones. Previous day when the temperature was -17C, a new batter last for the whole day (and the battery was inside camera whole day and the camera was hinging on my neck).

Sunset in mountains near Ruka, Finland

In the evening, at sunset at the top of a mountain at -30C + the wind factor (heavy wind) the temperature was definitely below -40C. My black camera bag and the camera I held in hand became gray because of the frost. But as long as glasses were clear the camera was able to take pictures even at such temperature, only the zoom ring on the lens became a bit hard to move (I used Canon 40D with a kit lens 17-85mm + CP or UV filter).

To sum up:

- be careful how you take off the lens cap and/or hold your filters. Keep humidity as far from lens and filter as possible. Once its icy, do not scratch it off. If the front element of the lens if frosty, you should stop taking pictures or just change the lens.

- If the day should be bright during your trip outside at such low temperature, you should really thing if to take tripod along or not. Some tripod head at hours in -30C may become useless.

- Put batteries into the glove next to your hand to keep them worm and lengthen its working period. If possible, use new batteries. 2-3 years old (used) batteries die quickly at low temperature.


Frosty sea

Snowy walkway between trees

Ski resort elevators in mist

Photo credits: Risto Hunt.
  • Risto40
  • Tallinn, Estonia

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March 20, 2012

Living in Fairbanks Alaska I run into the same problems, and yes we could stay inside, but since it's like this 9 months out of the year, either you figure out a way to deal, or put your camera away for 75% of the year. Since I lean towards outdoor photography that isn't an option. Nice winter shots, I personally love them.


March 16, 2012

Quite interesting, not sure about usefulness in my case, but nice to know... :)


March 14, 2012

If i'd be near the sea and its -40C outside, I would definitely stay inside as well. But far from the sea, -40C feels much warmer than near sea because of dry air. But of course, full day outside at -40C could be too long/much. But a full day outside at -30C (at dry air and almost no wind), it's totally OK. I was surprised too that I did not feel cold. I didn't actually feel cold at -40C either, but again, I was outside only for an hour. But the strong wind was extremely annoying. The wind blew directly from the direction of sunset so I managed to take only few pictures before the filter got frosty.

To Calyx22: I think warm summer pictures sell much better than cold winter pictures. Most people still like to travel to south and therefore nice warm sunny pictures are more needed for advertising :s Next trip will definitely be to a some place warm :p

low temperatures in mind.. i posted a bit funny blog article here - when temperature drops... click here


March 14, 2012

Another option is just to stay inside... my god, going out taking photographs at -40C... those poor batteries are not supposed to be outside in such conditions, and the same counts for us humans...


March 14, 2012

What a great set of winter themed photos! I think these will be great seasonal sellers, and potential for sports as well. Those are very helpful tips for frigid weather. Since I live in Saudi, that will only happen for me if I travel somewhere cold in winter. But I will file them away anyway! Looks like you made the most of a bitterly cold day. Best wishes for their successful sales. :)


March 07, 2012

Amazing pictures, really I feel cold when I look at them.. :-)


March 04, 2012

Great photos. Congratulation for your big effort!


February 28, 2012

Good writeup, thanks for sharing.


February 28, 2012

really great images!


February 27, 2012

Beautiful!! Worth the effort.


February 27, 2012

Wow, I love the cold! :) Thank you for the tips! Wonderful pictures!! :)


February 27, 2012

Beautiful pics!!!


February 26, 2012

GREAT !Thanks!


February 26, 2012

Nice images, congratulations!


February 25, 2012

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... That's cold... Great images.


February 25, 2012

Thanks for the advice! Nice winter photos.


February 25, 2012

Good to know, thanks for the informations.


February 25, 2012

Nice pics, thanks for the information.


February 25, 2012

Great winter photos!


February 25, 2012

Nice pics,good luck with the sales