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Cold hands, bright snow, dead batteries: challenges of cold-weather photography.

Snow may work white magic on the landscape, but it works black magic on photographs-and photographers. Few situations are as hard on you and your camera, or as tricky for your light meter.

The following tips can help you make photographing in snow easier and more effective, especially if you use a 35mm camera with adjustable settings.

Your equipment: avoid the big chill

If your camera depends on batteries for power, watch out. Cells are usually the first things to fail in the cold. Read your manual to learn what happens when your camera's batteries die. Some models quit altogether; other types with variable shutter speeds default to a single, fixed speed (usually 1/60 or 1/125 second).

If your camera switches to an unchangeable speed, you can still shoot if you can manually set the F-stop. To determine the correct exposure, use a handheld light meter or consult the printed guidelines that come with your film.

The best defense: keep batteries warm. Zip your camera inside your jacket between pictures. Or stow it in a camera bag. Tuck a hand warmer in the bag, too, being sure it doesn't touch the camera or acccssories. Check it often to make sure it isn't scorching your bag. Warmers, about $3 at sporting goods stores, can last several hours at a time.

And always carry spare batteries, stored in a warm, dry, inside pocket. Cut down condensation

Moisture can harm electronic and metal parts, especially if droplets freeze. Outdoors, try not to breathe on your camera; it causes condensation. Keep your camera in its case or bag when not in use; breathe away from it when shooting.

When you come in from the cold, you may see droplets forming on your gear. Beforeheading in, put all gear in your camera bag and close it up. The air inside will warm slowly, reducing or eliminating condensation. If you use your camera before it warms up, wipe off drops as they form. If getting into a car, stow gear in the unheated trunk.

Fend off frozen fingers

To set exposures and focus in cold weather, your fingers need to be both warm and nimble. Thin polypropylene gloves (about $8) or convertible wool mittens ($15, shown at middle right) afford a measure of both. Look for them in sporting goods stores and mountaineering .shops. You can try fingerless wool gloves ($9), though they don't offer as much protection. Don't let your camera go snow-blind Most light meters are averaging meters: they collect all the light in a scene, then give the proper exposure for the middle shades. In most situations, this means white comes out white, black looks black. But in a snow scene, the overabundance of white skews the averaee. Your camera doesn't let in enough light, and you end up with pictures of gray snow and dark faces. How you compensate for all that white depends on what kind of gear you use:

Automatic cameras. Some automatic cameras let you lock in an exposure. Move in close for a reading that measures your subject no snow lock that exposure in, then back up and shoot. For landscapes, lock in a reading on a relatively snowless part of the scene, then shoot.

If you can't manually override your camera's automatic settings, divide your film's ASA (ISO) number by four. Set your camera's ASA to that number. For ASA 400 film, for example, set your camera's meter to ASA 100. Note: If you decide to photograph a snowless situation on the same roll, remember to set the ASA back to 400.

Manual cameras. Take a close-up reading of your subject; that's your exposure.

If you can't lock in exposure or override the ASA (some cameras fix the ASA per a code on the film), include as little sunlit snow in your pictures as possible.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Dec 1, 1988
Words:640
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