5 tips for shooting in a Swedish winter
Travel photographer Sara shares her secrets to getting great photos in freezing temperatures.
Winter in Sweden can be absolutely fantastic for photographers. With snow-covered trees and a magical golden light, waking up in the morning seeing the light seeping through the window will make you want to jump out of bed to capture the landscape.
I flew out to Lulea one December morning with a vision of the shots I wanted, a camera and a tripod. Lulea is a small town located on the coast of Northern Sweden, about an hour by plane from Stockholm and not far from Lapland, so the perfect starting point.
As soon as you step out of the plane, the cold, fresh air hits you. On your way to your destination, looking out of the car window you will pass by traditional Swedish red wooden houses, frozen lakes, endless amounts of forests, the occasional snow mobile and if you’re lucky enough you may even see reindeers or a moose strolling past.
Northern Sweden offers so many opportunities for beautiful landscape shots during the winter months, but unfortunately the conditions of extremely cold weather mean that your equipment may not perform in the same way that you’re used to.
After spending weeks in Northern Sweden with a goal of capturing a series of landscape photos for my portfolio, I faced some of the challenges that arise as a photographer shooting in freezing cold weather.
If you find yourself planning a trip to Sweden next winter, to help you make the most out of it, here are a few practical tips.
Keep your batteries warm
With average temperatures in December and January of between -10 and -20 but commonly dropping to as low as -35 degrees Celsius, it is worth remembering that some of your equipment may struggle.
To avoid a situation where you’re standing there with snow-covered shoes and a beautiful frame but a non-functioning camera, bring spare batteries. Your batteries will not last as long as in ‘normal’ temperatures and your spares will need to be kept warm. Placing them in an inside pocket close to your body will usually radiate enough heat to keep them warm.
Watch out for condensation
Be careful not to breathe too close to the lens – condensation on the lens will take longer to disappear in the cold weather. It happens so easily and could ruin a shot having to wait for it to go away. Also, try to not change lenses to avoid getting condensation inside the camera body. It can take a long time for any moisture to disappear so if you must, do it as quickly as possible and hold your breath.
Even if the sun is shining, the freezing temperatures will quickly get to your fingers and hands, making them stiff and extremely uncomfortable (there’s even a risk of frostbite if you’re out for a long period of time). Having a pair of thin, flexible gloves that you can wear whilst using the camera will help to protect you from the cold. It’s an easy mistake wanting to take them off, I’ve often felt like it myself whilst trying to change the camera settings, but unless you’re just taking a quick shot, don’t risk it. It’s also handy to have a pair of thicker, warmer gloves that you can put on over the thin ones to warm your hands up properly.
Be careful with temperature changes
When moving from cold to warm conditions, such as getting into a heated car after being outside or taking the camera back indoors, do it in stages. By taking it one step at a time, you’ll minimize the risk of condensation forming inside the camera.
An easy solution that I always follow is to not take the camera out of its bag straight away when going indoors. Instead, leave the camera in the hallway with the door open for a while, after 10 minutes or so, take the camera out of its bag and close the front door, then leave it again before finally moving it into a warm room. It’s a great, simple way to allow for acclimatisation.
Make the most out of the daylight
The light during wintertime in Sweden works in the same as anywhere else, with dusk and dawn being optimal for getting that beautiful natural light. However, Swedish winter does come with one quite big difference – the time frame. When you’re in the North and want to catch the magical morning light, you will soon notice that you won’t have to go out until 9.30am the earliest and the sun will set as early as 12.30 or 1.30pm. In other words, after you’ve left the warmth of indoors, you won’t have much time in the day to get the shots you want.
With this limited daylight, in my opinion, it’s even more important than usual to plan out shots and scout locations in advance. If not, you will most likely find yourself desperately driving around with a mesmerizing sunset right in front of you but nowhere suitable to stop and capture it.
Sara Stromberg is a new on the market, travel and landscape photographer with an unconditional love for travelling and a goal to capture the beauty of our world. See more of her photography and travel adventures at https://www.instagram.com/sara.stromberg/
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