Winter Shooting Tip: Protect Your Gear From Fogging

Hey, just a quick reminder now that winter cold has set in and it’s the season for winter pix of the family or from the chairlift.  Take some precautions for your camera and lenses.

Some don’t realize that when your camera and other equipment have been out in the cold for even just a few minutes (the colder it is, the less time it takes), it can get a lot colder than the air temp.  That’s due to a bunch of things like radiant heat loss, bouncing molecules, air movement, and other factors that aren’t important to understand.   But, the results are crucial.

Everyone has blown on a cold window pane or seen the car windows fogging when warmer, most air from our breath hits the cold window.  Fog forms, then if it’s cold enough, new water molecules form crystals that tend align with each other, and very quickly an icy layer can form.

Windows are not a problem, but cameras and lenses are.  I’ve seen instances where someone unknowingly either blew on their lens or eyepiece to clear some snow or lint away, or took it into a warmer house (worse yet, a humid space like a shower room).  And presto!  You have a fogged lens that won’t thaw or evaporate sometimes for days.  Worse, that can damage the sensitive shutter mechanism or sensors, and leave a hazy film later.

So, do yourself a favor and just adopt a few simple practices that the pros use regularly.  First, pack one or two 1-gallon ZipLock bags (2-gallon if you have larger gear).  Stuff them into your pocket when you go outside.  While outside, put your gear into the bag and zip it up before going inside.  Allow an hour or more if necessary for the gear to equalize its temperature with the inside air.  And never, never blow on your cold lens or try to wipe any fog or crystals away.  The air inside the bag goes in cold and essentially void of moisture, so as long as the inside is dry, the captured air shouldn’t do any harm.

If you forget the ZipLocks, the next best alternative is to wrap your gear in a cold, dry cloth (like a dry jacket or a towel) and before unwrapping it, set everything aside in a place where warm, moist air won’t pass over any of the surfaces until temperature equalizes.

Today’s cameras, particularly the higher-end ones, and lenses are much, much tighter than in days past. but they can all be damaged. And at the very least, even having to wait inside for the ice crystals to melt and evaporate can certainly ruin your day (and trip).  And remember, never wipe any of your glass surfaces until they are completely dry, and then only with a professional microfiber wipe which is inexpensive and should always be in your bag to help avoid the temptation to wipe the lens with things like tee-shirts or hotel towels (aka “sandpaper”)!

Check back often for more tips and techniques.

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