Baby it’s cold outside, just look at that ice beard! Only in Northern Michigan would you find someone actually surfing in this kind of cold. But, that’s what a Marquette local, Daniel Schetter or “Surfer Dan,” does. On Christmas day, Photographer Devon Hains ventured out into the cold to photograph Schetter out on Lake Superior. If you’re thinking at all about venturing out in the cold after the next fluffy snowfall to take some shots (and you should), you need to take the appropriate actions to protect your gear. In this article, I’ll share a tip on how not to completely ruin your gear after shooting in the cold.
One of the great things about modern photography technology is that it will function just fine even in very cold temperatures. For example, Nikon’s new D850 is rated to be used in 32 degrees Fahrenheit with no change in functionality. So is the consumer-grade D3300. Even when left outside overnight in the freezing cold, our modern cameras these days are capable of surviving. Check out this video of some cameras that were completely frozen get thawed out and return back to normal functionality (disclaimer, I don’t recommend trying this). Even though our gear can be used in the cold, the number one thing to be careful of is after you’re done shooting. Bringing your gear inside to warmer temperatures can cause condensation, and that can be a very, very bad thing for your camera bodies and lenses.
In a nutshell, condensation is what happens when warm gas comes in contact with a cooler surface. So it’s a pretty good bet if you take a camera outside in cold weather and then bring it inside, condensation will develop on the outside of your precious gear, and even more scary, potentially on the inside of your camera as well. That moisture has the potential to cause a whole slew of problems including frying internal electronics, cause fungus to develop in between the elements of your lens, and so on. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal to make sure you don’t allow condensation to develop in the first place.
After shooting for even a short amount of time outside, the best way to protect against condensation is to put your gear into a large plastic ziplock bag. Toss a couple desiccants (those little packages of silica that you often get in shoe boxes) in and seal the bag. The air (and moisture) as it comes in contact with the camera may still condensate, but it will do so on the outside of the bag, and not on your camera. Allow the gear ample time to come up to room temperature. Bonus points if you leave your zip-locked items in a camera case as it will slow the rate of which your gear warms up, adding another layer of protection against condensation. Once the gear is up to room temperature you’re good to go.
Images used with permission from Devon Hains.