These pros will tell you their trade secrets to taking cool pics of our winter wonderland
Winter can be a great time to expand your photography portfolio. The Yukon spends months blanketed in snow, which can give your photos a whole new perspective. But before you head out, you should know that there are more things to consider than whether or not to bring a scarf. Here are a few top tips from some of the territory’s local professional photographers.
Don’t fog up the lens: When taking my equipment indoors, I always put it in my camera bag and cover the bag with my winter down coat, so that it won’t warm up too fast and fog up the lens.
Down pants: They are my most prized winter photography piece of equipment. You can get great winter down pants from Taiga, out of Vancouver.
I never leave my vehicle running: It is not great for the planet, and having a vehicle that gets too warm can be bad for winter photography. I generally keep the temperature around 18 Degrees Celsius. This way, my gear is less likely to get fogged up, I won’t overheat in my down pants and if the vehicle is too warm, you never want to leave and go outside.
Check on your models: Either I will check in or I’ll have my assistant constantly ask the models how they are doing. Are their feet or fingers cold? Do they need to change out their hand warmers? Have a thermos of drinks at the ready, and most importantly, keep an eye on any exposed skin for tell tale signs of frostbite!
Keep shoots short: Keeping the shooting time to short bursts of shots, and then regular quick warm ups, in a vehicle, or even just a tent out of the wind, with warm drinks, can make or break a shoot.
Have fun: For lifestyle images I’m looking for, it’s all about being out and enjoying the wilderness adventures, and most importantly ‘looking’ like you are enjoying the moments. You can have the best of locations, perfect light, well behaved sled dogs, but if the models aren’t having fun, the shoot is a bust.
Avoid underexposing your shots: When photographing the northern lights, always set your DSLR screen brightness to the lowest setting; this will give you a better idea of overall exposure and will help eliminate under exposed night shots.
Use your lens’ true infinity: Learn where your lens’ true infinity is, as all lenses are not built equally and while most lenses will be in focus when manually set to infinity there are some that will be a touch before or after the infinity mark on your lens.
To do this you can use autofocus and focus on an object far away in the daylight. When your camera has locked focus, make a small line on your lens focus ring with a silver permanent marker to show where your lens infinity is. This will save you time manually focusing at night and eliminate soft focused shots.
Stopping lens condensation when shooting at more than one location a night: If you’re planning to shoot northern lights at more than one location in a night, make sure to put your camera in your vehicle's trunk, the temperature difference from outside to a warm interior of a car will cause condensation on your lens. Keeping your camera as cold as possible in the trunk will stop your lens from having condensation for when you arrive at your second location.
Take advantage of the snow: Finding and following an animal track is easier in Winter when the landscape is covered with snow. Footprints, shelters, resting and feeding sites, sometimes even fighting and hunting sites, are all things you can read more easily in the snow.
Keep your distance: Be aware that in winter, lots of species reduce their physical activities to a minimum to avoid unnecessary expenditure of energy. You must therefore be extra careful and respectful during the Winter. Keep in mind that even just a flight for some birds is an enormous expenditure of energy, which can in some cases be fatal, especially if it is already weakened by the harshness of Winter.
Keep batteries warm: All batteries lose their power when exposed to temperatures below 0°C and the colder it is, the faster the drain happens. My trick is to keep some extra batteries in my inner pockets close to my body heat.
Static wait: When staying static in a blind (or hide) below 0°C for a long period of time, usually a few hours, I always try to find myself in a spot protected from the wind. I also put extra insulated layers between the ground and me, such as a thick piece of sleeping pad. I also always carry a few hand warmers, a thermos with a hot drink and a few snacks in case I have to stay longer than I had originally planned.