Hot Weather Photography

Pho­tog­ra­phy in Hot Weather

It’s hot enough to make your eyes cross — in fact, they do cross a lit­tle every time your pound­ing headache pulses with your rac­ing heart. You’ve burned your­self twice by touch­ing your sear­ing hot, black metal tri­pod, and your sun­burned skin feels like it’s cov­ered in fire ants. You’d like noth­ing more than to get out of this heat wave, order an ice cream and 20 litres of water, and jump in the lake.

Hang on a sec, though. Squint your eyes and look around you — the sum­mer can bring some delight­ful visual treats your way. What if you could take you mind off the bak­ing hot day long enough to actu­ally make some photographs?

Though cloth­ing can’t actively cool you off, what you wear will hugely influ­ence how you feel on a blis­ter­ing hot day. Sun­burned skin feels hot, so pre­vent sun­burn by wear­ing light-coloured cloth­ing or sun­block. A hat keeps the sun off your face, though the brim can inter­fere with your camera’s viewfinder. You can either wear one with a floppy brim or one that can be turned back­wards when needed, like a base­ball cap. Sun­glasses help pro­tect your eyes, and can be pushed up onto your fore­head when they’re not needed. Cot­ton or syn­thetic cloth­ing will keep you cool dur­ing the day, but cot­ton will stay clammy longer once the sun goes down in the evening.

To stay alert and cre­ative in the heat of the day, stay hydrated. Dehy­dra­tion, while not as dan­ger­ous as some think, will make you list­less­ness and fatigued, reduc­ing your atten­tion span and mak­ing it hard to con­cen­trate. Sweat­ing (which you’ll be doing a lot of) purges your body of water, salts, and calo­ries, so make sure you eat as well as drink. Small, light snacks will keep you awake in the heat longer than large, heavy meals. Sports drinks pro­vide much of what your body needs, but are expen­sive — juice or water along with a small amount of food should do the same job.

In extreme heat, some mechan­i­cal cam­era com­po­nents can break or mal­func­tion. Aper­ture blades will occa­sion­ally expand and bind, either not clos­ing to the desired aper­ture or stay­ing closed after the expo­sure. The blades can some­times be freed by gen­tly tap­ping the lens or press­ing the depth of field pre­view but­ton, but often the lens will need to be cooled before it will work prop­erly. Your camera’s shut­ter can be dam­aged if the cam­era is pointed at an extremely bright object with the mir­ror locked up (a vibration-reduction fea­ture found on some cam­eras). Avoid using the mirror-lock func­tion if you’re pho­tograph­ing the sun or a reflec­tion of the sun on a hot day.

Heat waves are a haz­ard to clear pho­tographs on a hot day. Heat waves are appar­ent rip­ples in the air just above the ground, caused by the dif­fer­ence in tem­per­a­ture between hot earth and slightly cooler air above it. Heat waves can con­found any efforts to cre­ate a clear pho­to­graph of a far­away object low on the hori­zon. This effect is espe­cially obvi­ous when using high mag­ni­fi­ca­tion lenses. There’s noth­ing you can do to pre­vent it — you can only focus on other pho­tographs, wait until the day cools down, or pho­to­graph the heat waves themselves!

Though heat can feel like a heavy weight on your chest, great pho­to­graphic rewards can be reaped by ven­tur­ing out into the desert or up the dusty sum­mer trail. Mid­day high sum­mer can some­times feel eerily like the mid­dle of the night — all is sleepy and quiet as every­thing alive waits to ven­ture out in cooler tem­per­a­tures. Take advan­tage of bright light to use unusu­ally fast shut­ter speeds, or use the harsh con­trasty light to cre­ate a mind­scape of high­lights and shad­ows. As always, you’re only lim­ited by your imagination!

Arti­cle cour­tesy of Mark Ray­mond Mason photography