We head into frigid temperatures with Loweprofessional Daisy Gilardini. Daisy captures stunning wildlife and landscape images in temperatures guaranteed to make your teeth chatter. We asked Daisy to share some tips to help you stay warm and most importantly safe in extreme conditions such as this.
Your personal comfort is the most important thing to keep in mind when shooting in the Polar Regions. If you feel cold, you won’t be able to focus on your photography. Your mind will only be able to visualize a nice fireplace and yummy hot chocolate!
Clothing is essential!
You need to dress in layers. The air trapped between many thin, warm layers is an excellent insulator. With layers, you’re able to strip them off, one at a time, if the temperature climbs.
Perspiration is your worst enemy in a cold climate. Perspiration — sweat — is the trigger for hypothermia. This is why you absolutely have to avoid sweat, by taking off as many layers as possible while walking or climbing. As soon as you stop and set up for the shoot, be fast in putting back the warmest clothing you can so that the heat generated by your physical activity exercise is trapped around your body.
This is my ideal polar top/bottom outfit:
-Polypropylene long underwear (avoid cotton as it absorbs humidity);
-A light fleece or polyester fiberfill layer;
-Depending on the air temperature, another, thicker fleece or down layer;
-A waterproof/breathable layer (Gore-Tex) on top of all that.
It’s scientifically proven that the largest amount of body heat is dispersed from our heads, believe it or not, so a good beanie and/or balaclava is essential.
Personally, I find it easy to regulate my body temperature simply by wearing and taking off my hat. If, while walking, I feel that I’m overheating, I take my hat off. My body temperature decreases almost instantly. As soon as I stop walking, I put it back to keep me warm.
EXTREMITIES – SOCKS AND BOOTS
When photographing wildlife, we spend a lot of time without moving, just waiting, so as not to alarm the wildlife. Circulation and chill in the body extremities, — feet and hands — are the biggest problems to watch out for.
Everyone responds to cold in different ways, so finding the ideal solution is personal. What works for me is wearing two pairs of socks: heavy merino wools on top of fine silk.
Depending on the location, I choose heavy boots. I prefer Muck boots: the Arctic ice model for wet conditions; the Sorel Glacier model for dry, cold conditions; and finally the Cabelas Trans-Alaska model for extremely dry, cold conditions.
EXTREMITIES – GLOVES AND MITTENS
For my hands, I use merino wool under gloves as a base, then add windproof climbing gloves with fold-back fingertip openings, Mammut’s Shelter gloves.
I also use large down mittens, on top the other gloves, when waiting for long periods of time. Hand and feet warmers are also a good idea.
CAMERA GEAR – TIPS AND TRICKS
In almost 20 years of experience shooting in sub-zero conditions, I’ve never had a camera or piece of equipment fail due to cold temperatures.
There are, however, a few suggestions I’d like to share with you, in order to avoid any problem.
WATER RESISTANT CAMERA BAG/BACKPACK
Protect your camera from the elements by carrying your equipment in a water-resistant camera bag or backpack. When you take your camera out of the bag, remember to close it. The outside fabric may be water-resistant, but that won’t help if snow and rain find their way inside.
Batteries don’t like cold. They’ll freeze and die. Lithium batteries last longer and cope better in cold situations.
I always carry at least two sets of spare batteries for each camera body I’m going to shoot with. Sometimes, in extreme cold (- 50°C), I find it helpful to keep them as close to my body as possible, in the same pocket where I have chemical hand warmers activated.
PROTECT YOU GEAR FROM HUMIDITY
Humidity and condensation are again your biggest enemies when shooting in cold climates.
The electronics of your camera are extremely sensitive to humidity. If a camera fails, this is usually the reason.
If it’s snowing or raining, use a special raincoat to keep your camera dry or else cover it with whatever’s handy: a cloth, towel or plastic bag, or even better, all three together.
Remember that when you transit from a cold environment to a warmer one, condensation will form on your equipment, in much the same way it forms on your glasses when you enter a warm room from the cold outside.
When coming home after a day of shooting, remember to take out the batteries and memory cards from your camera BEFORE you enter the door. Close your bag and DO NOT open it for a while (two to three hours depending on how cold it was outside).
This will allow the camera to warm to room temperature slowly, without creating any condensation. You’ll still be able to start working at your images and re-charge your batteries, as you have already extracted them from the camera while still in the cold.
Another trick is to place all your equipment in small ziplock plastic bags. The condensation will form around the plastic instead of your equipment. Wait until the camera is at room temperature before opening the plastic bag.
Every lens is sold with a lens hood, and you should always use it, whether it’s sunny or overcast, raining or snowing.
The lens hood’s main purpose is to block unwanted light from getting into your lens, where it can cause flare on your images, depending on the level of light. It’s not just for sunny days, either: Snow can reflect light off the axis and also cause lens flare.
Stray light aside, lens hoods are also extremely useful to protect the lens from raindrops and snow.
The only time I don’t use a lens hood is in extreme wind when the air passing through can cause turbulence and blur images due to camera and lens shake.
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION (OVEREXPOSING)
White snow can fool the camera meter, especially in overcast days.
As the camera meter standard is mid-tone, you’ll probably end up with an underexposed image that makes snow look grey instead of white.
Always check your histogram. Manually adjust the camera exposure to compensate and overexpose, to achieve a pure white. Be careful, though, not to “burn” your whites.
I always carry a graduated ND filter with me, especially in winter.
The dominance of white in snowy images and the exposure compensation needed to achieve proper whites may result in parts of the image being noticeably over-exposed. That can be managed by using a graduated filter.
I never work without a tripod, whether I’m shooting with a light wide angle or a heavy telephoto lens. Even though it can be cumbersome, it allows me to slow down just enough to really focus on composition.
Tripods are usually either aluminum or carbon fibre. If you choose aluminum, be aware that metal is a natural conductor of cold and so may be extremely uncomfortable and painful to work with, unless you also have proper tripod leg sleeves.
If you plan to use the tripod on pure ice — on a frozen lake, for example — it might be a good idea to add spiked feet as an accessory.
Now that you know all about sub-zero photography, get ready and get outside!
The best news is that in winter time, the sun is low on the horizon, sunrise, and sunset last forever, and the light is superb!
– Daisy Gilardini – Loweprofessional
You may find more of Daisy’s work at the links below
A couple of the bags Daisy hauls her gear in.