Cold Weather Shooting


Well, my last post was about shooting from the air when it's cold out.  As I've seen my share of single digit and below zero shooting this winter, I'm going to talk about a few "common sense" things that you can do to protect yourself and your gear.

Most importantly, when you plan on shooting in moderate cold, to freezing cold, to "my nose hairs are frozen" cold, is your clothing.  Starting from the inside out, I wear underwear (not long johns but that certainly is an option), heavy wool socks, Carhartt lined work pants, a t-shirt, a second long sleeved t, sometimes a heavier long sleeved shirt, a vest (either a lightweight, or heavyweight wool vest, a pair of lined Carhartt overalls, and then a coat.  On my head, I either wear the silliest looking wool bomber's hat you've ever seen (because it's the warmest hat I have), or I have thinner hats that I can wear under a hardhat, if I'm on a construction site.  For boots, I wear a pair of old, heavy, boots from Beans.  Again, these boots are the warmest pair I have, and they're waterproof.  If I'm on a construction site, I have a pair of insulated, waterproof,  steel toe, boots.

One note about the layers that are closest to your skin: even though I wear cotton t-shirts, I also know that I'm not going to be out there more than two or three hours at a time.  If you plan on being out longer, wool or poly would be better, as it does a better job of wicking moisture (read: sweat) away from your skin.  Dressing for the cold so well that you sweat is not an ideal situation.  And, if you feel yourself sweating, you should peel a layer, or open a zipper or two to cool yourself off.

The single most important article of clothing for cold weather shooting, are gloves.  You could obviously go the same way as my hat and boots, by choosing the warmest pair that you have, but they wouldn't be functional.  I have found that thinner gloves, with the fingertips cut off work the best.  I have two pairs (one heavy, one light) of these, and both have a little "mitten" piece that you can pull over your exposed fingers when you aren't shooting.  My hands still get cold, but it's a "manageable" cold.  And, I still have the option of shoving hand warmers into the gloves.

That's my cold weather set up.  You can certainly add wool or polypropylene long johns, an extra pair of socks, and any assortment of silly looking, but warm winter caps.  Another tip is to pick up some hand warmers.  I've never used these for my hands, but I have activated them, and taped them to the back of my camera a few times, to keep the camera from freezing.

So what about your gear?  Well, the aforementioned tip about hand warmers works well for cameras.  I have had a camera "freeze" a couple of times this winter.  I've also had my fluid head on my tripod freeze twice this year.  Both times when the temp was below zero.  As I need to have the ability to pan and tilt when I shoot video, even when it's below zero, I think I'll take my own advise and tape a hand warmer to the tripod head next time. 

Shooting in the cold can be a lot of fun, and you see some really cool stuff when it's minus 15!  But if you don't dress for it, it can be a miserable experience.  And a dangerous one!  I've had a busy winter.  Currently, I'm shooting three video projects for clients.  Staying at home when it's cold isn't an option for me.  So I dress warmly, take care of my gear, and embrace the winter that Maine throws at us.  I mean, that's why we live here, right?