Friday, January 3, 2020


skier winter cold weather
Story/Images by Jacquie Matechuk. Another early morning and I wake to the relentless nagging of an over-zealous iPhone basking in the soothing hum of a radiant heater in my hotel room. It’s Day 1 of the Winter XGames and the temperature is expected to flirt with freezing. Nothing exceptional until the evening hits and we fall to -20 Celsius. So, it’s time to plan accordingly.


Cold weather shooting is a unique challenge and certainly not for everyone. But if you find yourself tempted to brave the elements; to capture the frozen bubbles at Abraham Lake under first light or shoot the blistering action of an Alpine ski event or perhaps you’re planning to head out at 2am to snap up the brilliant hues of winter’s Aurora Borealis. Whatever the driving force, here are 15 of my top tips to help you make the most of whatever adventure lures you into the frigid unknown.


winter games



  1. Pack extra + extra batteries and keep them as close to your body heat as possible They won’t deplete as quickly and will operate more efficiently when warm.


  1. Change camera settings so images aren’t automatically displayed in your LCD window. Replay drains your batteries, so while you need to refer to your histogram as scenes and conditions change, be as conservative as possible.


  1. Carry an air blower (you can remove snow dust or moisture without creating more).


  1. If taking a break from the elements to go inside, you MUST allow the equipment to acclimate to avoid issues with condensation. I use a 30 minute window to get things to temperature before unpacking or using them again.


  1. Invest in a good stable tripod with spiked or traction feet, and consider wrapping the portion of the tripod you touch with foam to insulate the cold (zip tie in place)


  1. Shoot in RAW. This is one of those times it can make a huge difference to fix bigger issues in post-production.


  1. Try setting your exposure compensation to +1 or +2 to keep the snow in your images white (as opposed to the grey your camera will achieve as it struggles to capture detail). This is where your RAW format will serve you well.


  1. Use your lens hoods to reduce lens flare and to assist with acclimation (the hood trims back how much of the front lens element is in immediate contact with cold).


  1. Keep a polarizing filter with you to help darken skies. This gives you better control over your light balance and will help bring back the detail in well-lit areas.



winter skier downhill



  1. Wear warm gloves that are photo friendly, easy to access dials and buttons and ideally something that still allows touch screen functionality.


  1. Always pack re-sealable plastic Ziploc-style bags, they always come in handy.


  1. Always keep heat packs on hand.


  1. Dress in layers - think wind proof, breathable and moisture wicking.


  1. Stay hydrated! People forget when it’s cold but keep water with you, but you need it. EXTRA TIP: store it upside down (it’s slower to freeze at the opening).


  1. Take UV sunglasses as the snow reflects the light and can take a toll on your eye but remember the polarization will affect what you see in the viewfinder and LCD so keep an eye on your histogram to spot potential issues with your settings.


frozen lake

bobsled winter photography

Most importantly, take time to enjoy your environment. Don’t let falling snow or rain keep you from exploring unique photo ops. These moments are often the most spectacular because you’re shooting what most never see. Be creative with light, angles, time of day, composition and lens use. Cold weather shooting is a great environment to dabble with a little risk in your picture taking. Have fun and stay warm!

Article/Images submitted by: 

Jacquie Matechuk, is an Accredited Member of the Professional Photographers Of Canada. She is a Professional Lifestyle and Travel Photographer. Her business site is Jacquie Matechuk Photography. She is based in Alberta though she travels throughout the world. 




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