I headed out with a headlight on a cold and breezy morning before sunrise. I wanted to get high on the unnamed point next to St. Mary’s Lake, Colorado to capture sunrise images. The sun emerged over the horizon as I neared the summit of the point. As I emerged from the tree-line, the cold breeze turned to bitter cold accompanied by extremely high wind.
I dropped my pack, removed my tripod and extended the legs. After hiking for almost an hour, I knew my camera and lens had made the adjustment to the cold conditions. For outings like this, I put it in a zippered case so it can gradually change to the outside temperature as I hike to the destination. I removed my camera and placed it on the tripod. The wind was so strong and continuous that I had to hold the tripod down as I photographed.
To keep your hands as warm as possible in these conditions, I try to anticipate the start settings I will use and set them in the camera before leaving the house. This way I will minimize removing my hands from gloves during the shoot. I also highly recommend using gloves with leashes that attach around your wrists so you don't accidentally have one blow out of your hands and down the mountain as you remove it. Guess how I figured that one out?
The settings I set in the camera before leaving are settings I know I want or I know will be correct. One of these is RAW+ small jpeg. I know I will process from RAW, but I like to have the small jpeg for immediate viewing. This way I can toss them on my phone or pad for easy quick review on the couch or on a plane. They may not be perfect, but are enough to review and choose for editing the RAW version.
Another setting is white balance or WB on your camera. I know I want the daylight, commonly the sun symbol, setting so I retain all the subtle hues in the sunrise. If left in auto white balance, the camera is likely to shift the setting from image to image washing out most as it attempts to turn yellow and magenta light into white as it would with a light bulb. Daylight white balance is a fixed setting that doesn’t change.
For my nature landscapes, I like to use a quality circular polarizer. I rotate the polarizer to the dial in the look I’m after. Simply put, a polarizer removes or forces the reflection. I use it to remove undesired light reflection from atmospheric particles. In this case, mostly crystals of ice and snow blowing in the wind. They reflect the light, so I dial the polarizer to remove this reflection. Sometimes I dial to get the reflection. You can clearly see it through the camera as you turn the polarizer. Don’t forget to always turn your polarizer in the same direction it screws onto the lens to prevent it coming off, hitting the ground and rolling off a cliff! Guess how I figured that one out?
Finally, in a situation like this with high wind, take two or three images of the same shot. I do this because I’m never sure how the wind will gust or momentarily ease. I’m using f/stops to maximize depth of field which means slower shutter speeds at a lower ISO. Taking multiple images of the same shot increases you chances of getting a sharp image in high wind. I keep my hand firmly on the neck of the tripod holding the legs down. There is no reason to leave your camera packed away until it is warm outside. With the right game plan, a little suffering and the right equipment you can create some incredible images in the winter.
The following images were taken with a Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 VC USD lens and a Nikon D800. Also used was a circular polarizer and a tripod. Keep warm and Enjoy!