Monday, January 19, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Cold

Here is the latest "Instructor's Tip" from one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information. Until then, use this tip when you are shooting in the field:

"Unbelievable as it may sound, there are numerous advantages to shooting in the cold. During the winter, the sun stays at a lower angle providing better light. This low angle gives the subject dimensionality with more pleasing shadows than if the sun was directly overhead. Additionally, it skirts the horizon for a longer period of time thereby lengthening the duration of sweet light. The sun rises later in the day which translates to more sleep. In connection, the sun also sets earlier allowing normal dinner schedules to be maintained. Lastly, there are no bugs to eat you alive at both sunrise and sunset.

Most cameras handle the cold very well. When temperatures begin to dip into the extremes, special considerations are necessary. Always carry lots of spare batteries. After battery failure, the second biggest concern shooting in humid cold weather is the build up of condensation when bringing equipment indoors. Put the camera into a plastic bag and let the moisture form on the plastic. Let it sit for a few hours before removing it. An alternative is to put all gear into a camera bag which acts like an insulator and let it gradually warm up to room temperature.

When I’m cold and miserable, I stand about as good a chance of coming back with creative images as kids in the Sahara have of building a ten foot snowman. I dress in layers of breathable, moisture wicking fabrics starting with thermals. These fabrics lift away any perspiration from the skin lessening the chance of getting a chill caused by dampness. By dressing in layers, I peel one away if I get too hot to maintain a specific level of warmth. Most heat loss is through the head, therefore a hat is a must.

I also cover my hands and feet with waterproof, breathable materials. Blood can’t warm the toes and fingers as well as the trunk of the body making these parts more susceptible to the cold. At all costs avoid cotton socks. If your feet sweat, the cotton will trap it making them cold AND wet. I use gloves that have a retractable outer mitten layer. When I fold it back, it exposes just my fingertips allowing me to use all camera controls. If my fingertips get cold, I cover them up to thaw. "


To take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The statement, "most heat loss is through the head, therefore a hat is a must", is reportedly a myth. See "Excess heat loss in the hatless" medical myth at the BMJ medical journal at

Best Posts

Picture Your World Photography is a premiere photographer in the Denver, Colorado Photographer community on