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  1. Keep Your Extremities Warm
  2. Don’t Put Anything in the Snow
  3. Try a Flash
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Don’t Put Anything in the Snow

This might sound pretty obvious, but I can tell you numerous stories of when a photographer just needed to do a quick lens change and put his lens on the snow for a moment. Poof! His lens just disappeared into 3 feet of powder. I use a LowePro Flipside pack that allows me to change lenses and flash cards without ever putting anything in the snow. I also always carry a small foam pad when I’m shooting in the snow. I can use this pad on the snow and place gear on it, or I can sit on the pad if I am waiting on a shot. A little foam insulation goes a long way keeping your backside warm!

Expose to the Right

Winter landscapes are all about the color white. The majority of your image will have white snow as the main element. For this reason, it is important that your exposure captures white snow, not gray snow. Camera meters average out tonalities in a scene. When a camera determines the exposure for white snow, the camera will average out the snow and make it gray instead of white. Adjust your exposure by adding around 1 to 1.5 stops of light to compensate and create white landscapes, not gray ones.

Rewarm Your Gear Slowly

After you have been out for few hours photographing in the winter, your camera gear will cool down significantly. Because you are swapping cold batteries with warm batteries, your camera should work just fine. But be careful when you go back inside to your warm house. Taking a camera that is practically an ice cube into a 70-degree house will result in instant fogging of your gear. Some fogging might occur inside the lens or camera body, which can harm the electronics.

To eliminate this problem, put your cold camera gear in an airtight plastic bag to keep condensation from forming. I normally shoot all day in the cold, then put my camera gear inside my photo backpack and zip it up tight (see Figure 5). When I get home I bring in my photo backpack and let it warm up a few hours before I open it. This lets the gear slowly rewarm and prevents fogging.

Watch Your Focus

I love the autofocus on my camera. It tracks and focuses in a heartbeat, and rarely misses the mark. But the one situation that can fool my camera—and every other camera on the market—is falling snow. When you try to autofocus in a snowstorm, the autofocus sees all the falling flakes and scrolls back and forth trying to find a focus point (see Figure 6). In lightly falling snow, autofocus may work. But as soon as the flakes fall faster, your autofocus will stop working. Switch to manual focus and keep on shooting.

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