Shooting in Freezing, Wet Weather!

Posted: 02/23/2013

above: The library of Turku in a snowstorm, squatters tent in the foreground. Ilford HP5+ 400, Nikon F80 Nikkor 50/1.8

Guest Blog by Kalle Mether

I live in Finland where the winters are cold, long and dark. The snowy weather gives great opportunities for shooting excellent images on film. I love the look of snowfall and film grain!

How well a camera performs in cold weather is model specific. It depends on how your camera is constructed, how the parts are lubricated and what physical condition it is in. Old timey “wet” lube stiffens up quite a bit in cold weather and that can slow down the moving parts. If moisture gets inside the camera and freezes, then moving parts stop functioning and may break if forced! Weather sealing is an advantage.

Biggest problem is condensation of water on your camera when moving from cold to warm.  When you go indoors from cold weather, worst case your camera and lens will be covered in ice. This will probably lead to fungus inside the camera and lenses in the long run so protection is necessary!

above: Heavy snow on my home street. Ilford HP5+ 400. Nikon F80 Nikkor 50/1.8

Let your camera acclimatize to the ambient temperature before shooting. Do not move it between your pocket and the outside air, instead use a camera strap or bag to keep it away from body heat. Warm jacket pockets are very humid and your cold camera gets wet in there.

Keep spare batteries in a warm pocket. If the batteries in your camera weaken you can swap them from pocket to camera. Cameras without batteries are even better!

above: Snowed down daffodils on the Theater Bridge in my hometown Turku. Shot with my Soviet era Vilia camera on Fuji Superia 400 color negative film

Old lubrication may get very stiff in cold weather, in that case it´s probably not a good cold weather camera. If the camera gets stiff you should probably get it a CLA done anyway. Remember the FPP rule: NO VIOLENCE! If the camera freezes, don´t panic! Get it indoors and let it warm up and dry gently.

When you are finished shooting and go indoors:

Always have a plastic bag that you can seal, for example a zip lock back to put your camera in BEFORE you go inside. Also brush off snow and moisture from the housing. This way your camera will warm up without water condensation on it, the water drops will form on the outside of the bag instead of on your camera. A well padded camera bag gives good insulation and lets your camera warm up slower. You can stuff the whole camera bag in a plastic bag too before going inside. When moving from one place to another by car put your gear in the trunk where it is colder, use the plastic bag method if you want. If you are moving in and out from warm to cold all the time, try to keep the camera cold.

My film cameras have never given up on me in the cold, not yet at least :) There are probably as many opinions on this matter as there are cold weather shooters. I saw there is a discussion in the FPP Flickr group on this subject, some great points made over there too and info on some of the performance of different camera models in cold weather.

Keep it super positive FPP style!
Kalle Mether
Feel free to connect with me on the social media. I am most active on Google+ and Flickr

My blog in Swedish, google translate works ok for English


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