Shooting in sub-zero conditions creates an extra set of challenges. Before you can shoot good photos you have to think about shooting and not your freezing fingers. But big gloves and small buttons and dials are not a good combination. Here are my tips for getting the shot and keeping nice and toasty.
Overall I’m a big advocate for layering system so you can adjust according to the conditions and activity level.
A good base layer is essential to keep you nice and toasty all day. A good base layer is able to wick moisture away which keeps you dry and warm. I like merino wool although it’s the more expensive choice, but the sweetness of low price is long gone when you are freezing your ass off. A long sleeve t-shirt in 200g fabric is a good all-round choice for the upper body I use the Icebreaker brand variety. For the lower body I use Devold Wool Mesh long johns.
The next layer is the mid layer which is the isolation layer. Again the price varies greatly. Lightweight and warm is expensive and heavy and cold is cheap. I have the Patagonia Nano Puff which is super light but keeps me warm in -10 C.
On top of that I have the outer layer where I use the Crux Flak shell jacket which keeps out wind and water but is still breathable.
On the legs I use a pair of Haglöfs Utvak pants which is a combination of mid and outer layer. But I said I liked layering? Yes, but you don’t want to take off your boots and pants in bottomless snow. The Haglöfs Utvak pant does have zippers along the thigh which works as the climate control of the lower body.
The hands are essential. I use a pair of Hestra GTX Perform full five finger gloves in which the fingers still have some dexterity. If it is really cold and windy I throw a Hestra Pullover Mitt over them and take the mitts off when the action begins.
I wear a helmet when skiing because I love my brain and it helps keeping my nut and ears warm. I use the Rossignol RH2 helmet which is lightweight and has vents for a little airflow.
Over my eyes sits a pair of Salomon X-Tend goggles which keeps my eyes from watering when going downhill, enhances contrast, and ensures I don’t get snow blind.
If going off-piste remember at least a beacon, shovel, probe, and most important of all knowledge about avalanches.
I use an old nothing fancy The North Face Hot Shot bag. I like to use bags which don't scream “EXPENSIVE CAMERA IN THIS BAG” - a black North Face is perfect. In the main compartment I have the liner of a Billingham camera bag. The liner is a little short for a 24-70 with lens hood but it does the job.
Most lenses will do the job it all depends on the look you want to achieve. A wide angle for dramatic “landscape with athlete” shots or a tele for tight athlete shots. It all depends on the desired look. I bought the Nikon 24-70 2.8 which does a bit of it all.
Batteries die way quicker when it’s cold. I bring as a minimum two batteries. One in camera, one in the inner pocket. When I move from one location to another or my camera has some time without use I pop out the battery. I have marked the batteries so I put the one that has been in the pocket for the longest time in the camera and let the “used” one get heated.
When shooting in the snow on a sunny day it is super bright. This makes it easy to freeze motion. My settings was: f/9 1600/1 ISO 100. I shot at f/9 to increase the depth of field and make the shot sharper. ISO 100 because it was super bright and we want as little noise as possible, right? I could have slowed down the shutter and still freeze the motion but I like to underexpose the shot to preserve details in the highlights. With todays RAW-files it is easy to correct the exposure in post-production so you get a photo with details in the highlights and the shadows while still having a correct overall exposure.
Another thing is that I like to shoot backlit. This makes the splashing snow stand out more and gives depth and life to the photo. Although if it is super bright you might want to avoid it as the subject will get very dark.
Now get off your ass and shoot some skiers (or snowboarders)!