Inclement weather isn’t the enemy of digital cameras and photography, or at least it doesn’t have to be if you have the right gear in your camera bags. In fact, intense weather creates opportunities to capture a number of uncommon shots and take advantage of especially dramatic lighting. But you need the right equipment and strategies to protect your camera and get those shots so you don’t come back with a ruined camera and no photos to show for it.
Precipitation – Rain or Snow
The first thing to do with precipitation might seem obvious, but an oversized, waterproof jacket makes keeping digital cameras and DSLR lenses dry easier, so you can protect them against your body until the moment when you see the perfect shot. A clean, lens-safe cloth to wipe off your lens element is another easy accessory so water droplets don’t mar a perfect shot. And most photographers carry several spare plastic bags in case a deluge threatens to soak through everything.
You can opt for a rain sleeve if you have a larger lens or are using a tripod that prevents you from keeping the camera close to your body. If it’s just a light drizzle without much wind, your lens shade may be enough to keep the element dry, but you still need something to keep water off the housing. The most important thing to do is be sure you dry everything off thoroughly once you’re done shooting and go inside.
Cold weather and temperature changes create a host of threats to your camera and challenges for shooting good photos. Whenever moving from somewhere cold to somewhere warmer, whether it’s exiting an air-conditioned building or coming inside from the winter, keep the camera in a bag that won’t let a lot of moisture in during the transition from cold to warm. Wrapping in a plastic bag is effective, and keeps condensation out while the camera warms up.
Cold weather also saps battery life incredibly fast, so you need to carry spare batteries in pockets close to your body and minimize energy use on your camera. There aren’t any tricks or special equipment for this problem, although again keeping your camera close to your body and in a coat so it stays warmer can help. You may also want to have special garments for cold weather to keep your hands and face warm and nimble, and especially so using the viewfinder isn’t so uncomfortably cold it discourages you from shooting.
Wind might seem innocuous, but it can be a killer. First, choose your lens (or lenses) carefully. Strong wind means lots of motion, so you have to think about the best lens for your camera’s ability to perform. Think about questions such as: How much light will there be; what type of subjects will you shoot and how far away will they be; and how high can you set your camera’s ISO before shots get grainy? Shooting people where a blurry background is fine requires less performance than shooting animals or events far from the camera, when you’ll need super fast shutter speeds even in low light.
Next, consider protective gear for the camera. If there may be any dust or sand in the air, such as at the beach, you want an inexpensive natural light filter to protect the lens element at the very least. Probably, you also want to wrap the entire camera in a plastic bag or plastic cooking wrap to seal out dust and moisture. Rain sleeves are OK for this as well. Lastly, an umbrella can be incredibly helpful if you have someone to hold it for you. Whether there is precipitation, fog, or dust, the ability to block some of it and protect you and the camera while you shoot increases your chances of getting the photo you want and keeping the camera safe.
Shooting great photos with digital cameras requires the right tools and tricks. If you buy the few necessary accessories and take the right steps, you can capture stunning photos and protect your equipment from damage, turning inclement weather into an advantage instead of an adversary.