Winter Photographer’s Idiot Checklist

Winter. Brrr

There are many, many articles out there about what camera, which tripod and which lenses to use when out doing photography, but often it’s the small things we forget, or don’t think about until it’s too late. Then whoops, you’re stuck.

So here’s a list I use myself, being a seasoned camper, camper-vanner and photographer. Safety, especially in this cold season, is paramount, especially if you’re heading for the countryside to get some shots of pristine snow and ice.

  • Camera, lenses, lens cloth (things get steamed up), flash (puts a sheen on snow on a dull day), and if you have one, a battery charger for the lighter socket. Carrier bag, large. This is handy for kneeling on in the wet.
  • Tripod. Low light often means longer shutter speeds.
  • Blanket, towel, flask, snacks (my favourites are dark chocolate, crisps, nuts and fruit) to keep your calories up should you get stuck in snow.
  • In the boot… Emergency break down kit, including warning triangles and tape. Cars left in snowdrifts have been known to be hit by snow ploughs once buried in drifts.
  • Spare socks and shoes… it’s surprising how dry feet can warm you up after stepping in that puddle/stream with the camera in front of your face.
  • Mobile phone (fully charged) to call for help should you need it. Car phone charger.
  • Any medications you might be on, just in case you do get stranded. It’s one thing less to worry about while waiting for rescue.
  • Bottle or two of water. Snow isn’t hygienic and doesn’t taste nice.
  • Powerful torch and spare batteries.
  • Spade or shovel. You may need to dig yourself out or clear ice from your parking space.
  • Warm gloves, fingerless gloves. Tripods can freeze your hands!
  • Boots with grip. Don’t underestimate the ground. Under that lovely white snow could be a sheet of ice waiting to catch you out.
  • Make sure your vehicle is dosed with anti-freeze and have an ice scraper handy.
  • Hat. You lose a third of your heat hrough the top of your head. I have a thermal one and a furry, smart one. I’d rather be too warm than too cold!
  • Mirror. Is your head screwed on the right way round? Did you use your checklist? If so, check, one idiot!
  • Have fun and get great photos.

Do you have a tip to add? Please leave a message….

  • Baby it's cold outside

    Out and About


22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bob Zeller
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 17:29:51

    Great winter photos! I used to live in Michigan and I am familiar with scenes like this. But down here in Texas I really don’t miss the snow, even though it is beautiful to look at.


  2. chriscaff
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 18:10:54

    Thankyou Bob. I’m in the Midlands of the UK. We hadn’t had snow for years until last winter. Now two on the trot! It’s beautiful but the UK is never geared up for it.


  3. LC
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 09:18:51

    beautiful photos! Where abouts in the Midlands are you? We got more snow this morning and the Peak District are laden with snow… I’d love to just jump on a train and go for a wonder with my camera! Great tips list too =)


    • chriscaff
      Dec 01, 2010 @ 12:50:03

      Hi again.
      Thanks for visitng me, and for the compliments. I’m in Loughborough. It nestles between Leicester and Nottingham near the M1. We don’t get huge quantities of snow as the Peaks attract it away from us, but we have enough. It’s still falling here now and I’m about to set up my camera inside the patio doors so I can snap the birds coming to my feeder. Please call again!


  4. Jon Vagg
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 13:51:44

    Very ‘picture postcard’ type pics! I’m sure, somewhere, there’s an actual proper paying market for shots like these.

    As to the list: many, many years ago I lived in a village near Oxford which was on a dead-end road and at the bottom of a steep hill. When it snowed, the one thing we all needed was the local farmer’s phone number so he could tow us up the hill – even people who had snow chains, which I think were still legal at that point, couldn’t get their cars up it. Once we were out, we all had to leave our cars in the lay-by on the main road when we came home again because we couldn’t drive back down the hill without skidding.

    Oh, and an obvious point you’ll already know – not to use hot water to get rid of ice on a car windscreen. One of two things will happen – it will freeze over the windscreen quickly, or alternatively it will crack the windscreen!


    • chriscaff
      Dec 01, 2010 @ 19:13:50

      Good point about icy windscreens, Jon. And I love your story about being towed up and down the hill. I think a lot of people would appreciate that at the moment, but I’m not daft enough to go and find out…


  5. Cipher
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 15:25:30

    Great photos and tips. I’m planning several photography trips this winter, and this made me think about what I should be taking along.


  6. Randy Wornhole
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 18:47:25

    Yet again great shots. The checklist needs chocolate adding…..not for any other reason than its on every list I write. XX


    • chriscaff
      Dec 01, 2010 @ 19:11:09

      LOL chocolate is there darling. Under point three. Dark chocolate of course…how could I leave home without it? Thanks for visitng again, especially when you’re poorly.


  7. Robin
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:01:00

    Beautiful winter scenes. And great tips. Having spent time out in the snow and ice today, I think you covered pretty much everything in terms of things you need for winter photography.


  8. EternalForms
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:15:14

    I enjoyed looking at this post. I was snickering to myself while reading a few of those tips! You’ve take some beautiful winter images. Like Bob, I used to live in the Midwest, but now call Texas home. I, however, miss the snow and cold very much, so these took me back a few years. All around, some really good photos on your site, Chris. Looks like we have a common love of the outdoors and quite a few similar photography subjects! Thanks for visiting my blog, too.


    • chriscaff
      Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:37:15

      Thanks for visiting and your kind comments. We don’t normally see much snow here but this early winter has taken us by surprise. Yes, we do share some photography interests, and it’s great to find people who do. It would be good to see you here again, maybe we can swap tips. I’ll be sure to visit you, too.


  9. lynnwiles
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 02:53:25

    Beautiful photos Chris, I especially love the first one. On your list, boy oh boy am I ill prepared when I go out. Thanks for pointing that out to me.


  10. chriscaff
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 11:41:07

    Thankyou, Lynn! I’m glad you like the photos. I have to confess that one is from the snow we had in February. We haven’t had the light here for good shots since the snow fell this time. Be safe out there!


  11. eremophila
    Dec 03, 2010 @ 00:32:34

    From the land of dust and flies, I have to say these images are gorgeous! I’ll return again during the heat of summer, just to cool off:-)
    Perhaps I’ll do a Downunder version of this – how to deal with heat extremes! There are some things in common however.


    • chriscaff
      Dec 03, 2010 @ 00:58:09

      Thanks Eremophilla, and thanks for visiting. Yes! please do. That’s a great idea. I know how dangerous heat exhaustion and dehydration can be!


  12. sabrinadankel
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 17:43:10

    I love the list! Most of the things mentioned seem so obvious, but I am such a candidate who’d forget half of it and wished she’s made such a list before she’s gone out there… 🙂


  13. Todd Actual
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 06:01:30

    1. OTC pain and anti-inflammatory pills like tylenol and motrin, aspirin if you are at risk for a heart attack. – I sprained an ankle alone in heavy october rain late at night miles from shelter and ibuprophin staved off the inflammation enough I could walk to the cabin, which literally saved me. A friend of my dad had a heart attack, it took hours for help to arrive by helicopter and they said the aspirin saved him.

    2. Sterile bandages – Years later the heart attack man stabbed himself 4 inches deep. Infection is more dangerous than the wound many times.

    3. A cheap portable GPS that takes regular replacable AA batteries – If you can tell them the exact co-ordinates they can get there faster, even if you don’t understand latitude and longitude. When that guy had a heart attack it was before gps and the helicopter was looking around miles downriver before we shot a flare. We had these girls lost in the woods here and they could cell phone the rescue people, but they were miles from where they thought they were so it took a week to find them. It’s easier than you think to not know where you are. If it takes AA batteries you can bring more. If you have to charge it you could be S.O.L.

    4. A good knife – 1000 uses.

    5. A bic lighter and a big bag of nuts – bics are waterproof. Just run the wheel down your leg until sparks start to fly again and a fully submerged bic will light in 2 minutes. You can light even soaking wet fatty nuts like cashews on fire in like 5 seconds. Try it, light a cashew on fire and it will burn a long time as the oil wicks out. Smash a few into a chunky pasty lump and you have a good firestarter, and nuts will go a long way as survival food.

    6. An Avalanche beacon – If you are in the mountains. With this it is possible they could dig you up in time. In winter the mountains scare me the most, I don’t mess with avalanches.

    Booze is bad if you are stuck outside, it will make you colder. But if you drink it warm your flask. Booze doesn’t freeze and drinking liquid colder than ice is bad. If it’s really cold (like 50 below freezing) you could seize up your throat and suffocate. Same with snow, melting snow in your mouth to drink will cool you off too much.

    If your clothes are soaked you are better off naked, so extra clothes are essential. If there are more than one of you then carry each others clothes so if one gets wet he or she still has the dry clothes the other is carrying. When in doubt stay put, they find more people faster that stay where they first have trouble.

    Sorry I’m going on and on. I’ve spent half my life in a cabin in the woods here in Alaska. Sometimes it seems getting into serious trouble in the woods is my “thing”.

    A heard an Alaska Native say: The weather goes hunting only for those that don’t respect it.


    • chriscaff
      Jan 12, 2011 @ 14:28:13

      Wow, we’re real softies here! Because of our temperate climate, snow causes chaos and low temperatures (minus eight) cause major news items! I can’t imagine living at minus 20. Brrrrr. I suppose it’s what you are used to, but what you have to say would cause a lot of people here to staret counting their blessings. The British don’t know how to cope with snow, drive in snow or even keep themselves safe when the weather is cold. I’m a camper of many years, hence my original post regarding safety. But I wouldn’t know how to cope in the conditions you describe!


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