Winter is such a fun season for landscape photography. A first winter photography trip can be daunting. However, with some preparation, landscape photography in a winter wonderland can be incredibly fun and even relaxing. Often, I find the winter season grants me extra downtime than any other season. The only exception is if there are clear skies when I’m in a location to chase the aurora. And even then, I seem to find a lot more naps than on other trips. My previous post discussed my entire clothing packing list for a winter landscape photography trip to keep me warm and comfortable in the elements. With that preparation completed, let’s discuss the camera gear and accessories for shooting in cold weather.
In terms of camera gear, I tend to travel with the following: full-frame camera, tripod, and wide-angle, mid, and telephoto lenses along with my photography filters. These items are in my backpack no matter the season or location. For a winter photography trip, I will always bring the following camera gear accessories.
Helpful Camera Gear Accessories for Winter Photography
1. Spare Batteries: Batteries are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures. Therefore, it is important to have a few spare batteries. Keeping those spare batteries away from the cold is paramount. I like to keep them in my pockets in my insulated jacket close to my body. There have been times when I’ve even added a heat pack to the area where my batteries are being stored to help neutralize the power drain suck of frigid temperatures. In addition, I don’t wait for the batteries to drain completely in the winter season. If I’m back at my hotel or cabin, I’m charging up to make sure all my gear is ready for the next round.
2. Remote Trigger: Keeping your fingers warm when shooting in cold weather is one of the harder parts. Often, gloves are cumbersome if they are really warm. And the gloves that give you the dexterity needed to operate your camera aren’t the warmest. So it’s a constant back and forth to help keep your hands in a warm place, like your pockets. A remote trigger allows you to fire the shutter from the comfort of your pocket. A wireless remote will have the same problem of maintaining battery life, and a wired remote will open another port on your camera to the elements. Personally, I prefer the wired remote, but I won’t use it if there is a lot of snow and wind blowing about.
3. Desiccant or silica gel packets: Now, there usually isn’t a lot of humidity in cold weather, but I keep these water and humidity-absorbing packets in my camera bag all year round. I see it as an extra layer of moisture protection for my gear. No matter how careful or quick you are, as soon as you open your bag outside, a small amount of snow has a good chance of drifting into your bag. The desiccant packets will help soak up this moisture. Normally, I prefer to purchase larger ones from a photo store or Amazon.
4. Rocket Blower: Wiping snow or moisture from your lens in the winter isn’t exactly easy. It isn’t like things dry quickly. I use a rocket blower for removing snow that might fall on the camera body or lenses during a shooting session before it freezes. This is particularly helpful to clean off everything before you pack up your gear from a session.
5. Foam Pad: A small foam pad is lightweight and can be used in multiple ways. I will either kneel or sit on the pad for wide-angle shots which are low to capture foreground elements. It keeps me from directly sitting or kneeling on the snow. Thus, it keeps me warmer and even more comfortable than sitting directly on the ground.
6. Photography-Friendly Gloves: Keeping your hands warm while manipulating your camera is critical. Therefore, you need to find a layering method that will work for how you photograph in the winter. Personally, I prefer to use a layering system where I have a pair of glove liners that are touchscreen capable. These go on and stay on so my bare hands are never exposed or very rarely exposed to the elements.
On top of those liner gloves, I use a heavier glove or mitten that easily pulls back to expose the liners. This helps keep my hands warm but also gives me flexibility if I need more dexterity to manipulate the camera. One option for this setup is a thin pair of Smartwool or NorthFace liners and then I wear my Vallerret WS Nordic Photography Gloves. I use these gloves because I have them, but I wouldn’t say that I would spend the money on them again. They are really nice for average winter temps, but I don’t like that the liner isn’t sewn into the glove. I just can’t wear the Vallerret Glove on its own because I do not like my bare pointer and thumb being exposed to the elements.
Last year, I found these two-in-one combination photography gloves from Freehands where the pointer finger and thumb have a magnetic flap that pulls back for better dexterity. However, unlike the Vallerret gloves, it still has a liner so my bare skin is never exposed to the elements. It’s an all-in-one combination and has quickly become my go-to gloves for average winter outings.
For extreme temperatures and for downtime when you are waiting around for sunrise or out for hours at a time looking for the northern lights, then I will use a pair of insulated gloves. I’ve heard so many photographers say how much they enjoy gloves from The Heat Company. The Heat Company gloves are a layering system with a liner, shell, and hood. The company offers a decent amount of options to tailor your gloves to exactly what you need. When I’m due for a new set of gloves or before my next deep freeze trip, this is what I’ll be adding to my closet.
7. Camera & Tripod Protection: If you are not actively photographing, then put your gear back in your pack. This will keep it away from the elements. Also, it will help to preserve the core temperature of the gear. Even if I have my composition setup prepared but am waiting on the light to arrive, then the camera goes back in my bag. I’ll pull it out right before I’m ready to shoot and review my settings before starting to shoot. This is important to preserve your battery, but also to prevent unnecessary issues.
For example, snowflakes can melt and then refreeze in little cracks or around your filters. A filter frozen to your lens in the field is frustrating! This goes for your tripod as well. There is no sense in keeping your tripod extended when it isn’t in use. Leaving it in the extended position will just allow it to freeze sooner making the lever and knobs more difficult to operate. So I do keep a bag for my tripod and a small bag for my camera body. The bags protect my gear during transit and downtime when I’m outdoors, such as on a snowmobile or waiting around for sunrise. Even if you don’t have a specific bag, wrap a scarf or a microfiber towel around your gear. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just needs to be functional.
What other camera-specific gear or accessories do you use for shooting winter landscape photography images? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.