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Get a Reliable Camera Bag
The number one step to protecting your camera from the elements is to get a decent camera bag. I recommend Lowepro bags but feel free to use any camera bag you wish. Camera bags not only protect your camera, they give you somewhere to store your gear, so it isn’t as awkward to carry around 3 lenses, the camera, extra batteries, an extra memory card or film, filters, and your lunch (if you plan on being out a while). Carry a plastic bag from a grocery store in your camera bag as well. It’s much easier to throw a plastic bag over your camera and tripod when it starts raining or snowing than it is to take it down, put it away, close the bag, and run back to your car.
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Watch The Condensation
When you bring your camera from the cold outdoors to your heated house or car, you run the risk of condensation forming on your camera. That is very hazardous. If condensation occurs, open the memory compartments and battery compartments, take out everything not attached, and keep them open until they are dried out. Once the condensation happens, do NOT take your camera back outside. There is the possibility it will freeze, which will leave you with a very expensive neck adornment.
Another idea is to put your camera in a plastic bag while you’re still outside. The condensation will gather on the bag rather than on your camera. If you don’t have a plastic bag, let your camera warm up slowly. Keep it in the camera bag or leave it on a windowsill until it gets used to the temperature indoors. You can also use bags of rice which will take the condensation out of the air. If you’re traveling to a place which doesn’t allow food across the border, silica gel will also work.
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Another major issue with cold weather is batteries. Batteries lose their charge much faster when they’re cold. When not using them, keep the batteries close to you so they can share your body heat, such as in a pocket or in your glove. Don’t keep them in your camera bag. Also, auto-focus consumes a lot of your camera’s energy, so turn it off if it isn’t necessary.
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For those of you using film cameras rather than digital, static electricity is a major problem. Cold weather means low humidity, and static electricity is more of a problem when the humidity is low. Take for example when you take your hat off, your hair sounds like a crackling fireplace. That is due to humidity. If you are using an automatic camera, take photos one frame at a time. Rewind your film very slowly. It may help to touch something else metal before touching your camera. The static electricity could transfer over to the film as lightning streaks through your photographs.
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Another factor is wind. Not only can wind topple over your camera and tripod, it can also carry dust, sand, and other debris at high speeds that can damage your lens if it gets into the wrong place. Try using a folding umbrella which can shield your camera. You can also hang your camera bag on your tripod to hold it down or depending on the area, drill a spike into the ground and tie your tripod to it.