When it comes to shooting outdoor photography at winter, there are plenty of great photo opportunities. From frosty landscapes to birds in the snow, there is no shortage of subjects. But winters are not just cold, but damp, and having the right gear – and protection for your gear – is a must to be able to cope with the elements.
You don’t need an extensive kit list to make the most of your winter photography, but there are a few bare bones essentials that every winter photographer should have – items that will keep you warm, keep you dry, keep you shooting longer and cope with the light.
Here’s what we’re packing when we shoot in the winter months…
This is the cheapest and yet most useful item you’ll find on this list. If your camera isn’t weather-sealed, shooting outside for any length of time during winter is bound to introduce water to your camera. Likewise, the front element of your lens will probably mist up.
Having an absorbent towel on hand allows you to quickly dry your kit and keep it safe.
For internal moisture, allow your camera to dry slowly in a warm environment after use out in the cold.
An all-in-one camera and lens rain cover doesn’t break the bank and ensures your expensive gear stays dry on those longer shoots out in the rain.
Failing that you could use a plastic bag with elastic bands, but dedicated rain covers are so cheap these days and are designed to fit the contours of your equipment. They really make life easier.
Wear layers when you’re shooting out in the cold, but it’s important that you have a thick, water-resistant outer layer. Paramo makes weather-proof clothing designed specifically for outdoor photographers, and there are other manufacturers as well.
Look for a water-resistant jack and over-trousers to ensure you stay completely dry and can go anywhere your lens takes you.
Spare batteries / Battery pack
Cold weather saps the energy from your camera’s battery, so it’s important when shooting in winter that you have a spare, fully charged battery or a power pack that will allow you to top up charge in the field.
Make sure you keep that spare battery somewhere warm when it’s not in use to ensure it retains all of its charge.
A polarising filter is a must-have accessory for winter photography. It helps reduce reflections from wet surfaces and also increases the saturation in your colours.
Look for a circular polariser, which is suitable for all autofocus cameras.
Neutral density graduated filter
An ND grad filter is ideal for those times when you’re shooting a landscape with a darker foreground than the sky, which creates an imbalanced exposure.
You can get ND grads in a range of sizes and strengths. Start with a 0.6 ND soft, which is a great all-purpose filter.
Yes, you read that correctly! Any waterproof mat will do, but yoga mats can be found for very cheap. They’re light to carry and are a godsend for those times when you have to kneel down in wet grass for a photograph. Or even when you simply want to sit somewhere dry and eat your lunch!
Carbon fibre tripod
A sturdy tripod kind of goes without saying when shooting any outdoor photography, but in winter we’d recommend a carbon fibre option.
Carbon fibre tripods are much lighter than metal options, and thus easier to carry on long distance. In winter you’re typically carrying more gear and wearing more clothes, so anything you can do to lighten the load, the better.
Make sure you check, though, how much weight your tripod can support. And look for a suitable tripod head. I prefer a ball and socket head, as it suits all sorts of set-ups.
Camera remote control
Light levels are lower in winter. Once that sun starts to set, the light will go quickly. A wireless camera remote is a handy and lightweight accessory to have in your camera bag this time of year to ensure you avoid camera shake during longer exposures.
Wellington boots are waterproof, but if you’ve ever been to a festival or hiked for more than an hour in a pair of wellies, you’ll know how cold and uncomfortable they can be.
Look for a pair of walking boots with a warm lining and a decent amount of water resistance.
Waterproof camera backpack
It goes without saying that you’ll need a photo backpack big enough to hold all your gear, but you’ll also want one that keeps your gear dry.
Most bags these days are made of materials that offer some degree of water resistance, but look for those that come with a separate rain cover that wraps around the bag. These are very handy to have when out in driving rain.