Capturing street images during the winter’s cold months can be very rewarding as long as you are prepared to take on the elements. The tips below are compiled from some of my experiences capturing images in the cold and blustery weather of winter.
5 TIPS FOR CAPTURING IMAGES
- Try to get out into the streets after a new snow fall. Taking images just after a new snow fall can include items like fresh footprints left in the snow by a passerby. They also make great leading lines in your images. They sometimes can give the viewer a sense of isolation or being alone on a cold and blustery day.
- If the snow coming down is made up of large flakes take the time to use them as a contrast to grittier scenes in the streets. Looking for sides of buildings with grit or cement streets can make for wonderful contrast with a large flaked white snow.
- Look for areas where snow has started to build on buildings or in corners of buildings. Many times these elements can look very smooth and clean in contrast to the cement of the street or the building they are next too.
- When it’s snowing or the weather is so cold it hurts your face, know that people in the streets will be walking with their head down. If this is the case, consider switching your angle to capture your subjects face by getting low to the ground. You will be amazed at some of the expressions you will find when it’s this cold out.
- When trying to capture people in the cold or snow you have to be prepared for quick movement. People are cold and will be darting from one building to another so to capture that decisive moment your instincts need to be even quicker. You may want to put your camera in shutter priority so you have the appropriate shutter speed of over 1/250 or more to freeze the motion in your images. Don’t forget to try the reverse too. By dropping the shutter speed and working in some blur for the look of quick or movement as well can lead to a creative image.
GEAR UP FOR THE COLD
Not only are there tips on taking images in the cold and snow, but we also have to be prepared physically ourselves as well as have the right gear to brave the elements.
- When it comes to weather sealed image makers, Olympus has me covered. My two top picks would be the OM-D E-M1 Mark II or the slightly smaller OM-D E-M5 Mark II coupled with a weather sealed lens. Both of these bodies will work great in the cold and stay sealed if you happen to be caught in a big snow storm.
- As far as lenses go my recommendation would be to keep as nimble as possible so the new M.Zuiko ED 25mm f1.2 PRO or the M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens if you would like to have a zoom. Both of these lenses are weather sealed and will do the job quite nicely in the streets. When I shoot with my 12-40 Pro, I like to keep it set on 17mm to capture images in this width because it is natural for me in warmer weather of spring and summer.
- Batteries in the cold can be very important. Your camera battery exposed to quite cold temperatures will lose charge much faster than if it was kept warm. Of course, as always, be sure your batteries are fully charged before leaving for your adventure, but don’t forget to keep them warm. I like to find an inside pocket on my coat where I can keep them close to my chest for warmth. If you forget and keep them in the outside of your camera bag you may be disappointed when you go to witch out the battery and find much of its juice has already run out because of the cold weather.
- I normally use a wrist strap to hold my camera, but during the winter months I will switch to a neck strap so I can keep my hands available if needed to brace a fall. You never know when you might hit an ice patch or slippery area and lose your balance. With your hands free you can feel more assured with the camera around your neck rather than on one of the hands you are depending to break your fall or regather balance
- Always try to keep exposed skin to the minimum. Exposed skin in very cold temperatures can not only make your adventure miserable but could lead to sever issues with frostbite. Over dress when going out and always do that in layers. If you need to take a piece of clothing off because the sun is out and it’s not as cold as you thought it’s much easier and safer to do that then be without the proper clothes.
- I try to keep my outer layer in some type of windbreaker or wind jacket to help cut down the effects of a winter wind. My warmest layers are underneath that.
- My boots are always waterproof and have the proper tread to navigate large snow piles and slippery sidewalks. Don’t try to brave the elements in tennis shoes you use in the summer.
- I also try to layer my gloves. I have a very thin pair of running gloves I like to use under the larger leather or wool type of glove. When I shoot I will likely be doing it with the thinner pair of gloves and in between shots I will put my hands back into the larger gloves and always try to pack a few hand warmers handy to take off that biting chill of winter.
When shooting in cities during the winter I try to locate a few places where I can sit down to get a quick warmup. I look for coffee shops or small sandwich places along the route and keep them written down or on a map. I don’t worry so much in the summer about this but when you need to take a quick warming break, a quick cup of coffee never hurts. It’s also a great time to sit down and use the OI Share App to look through some of the great images you just captured with the built in Wi-Fi within your camera.
Braving the elements is rewarding and creative when it comes to capturing images in the streets during the winter months. The most important thing to remember is be prepared and don’t shy away from the cold because the elements can actually help your creativity as long as you are properly prepared. Give it a try!