Hot Summer Photography

Summer in the prairie, Minnesota. Warm, humid sunrise.

It’s July, one of the hottest months of the year in most of the country. Some parts of the U.S., particularly the Southwest, have seen some of the hottest weather in quite some time. And there is no question that when you add high humidity to high temperatures, the discomfort level rises.

Heat and humidity doesn’t mean you can’t go out and photograph. It just means you have to pay attention to a few things.

Some of the best light for nature photography comes early and late in the day, particularly for landscapes. Those are great times a day to be out in the heat coming anyway. And of course, you need to be sure you are drinking lots of water and you are being careful of overexertion.

A hot and humid day. Time for water.

Let’s look at dealing with your gear in the heat. Our gear today is filled with electronics, including lenses. Electronics don’t like high heat and can be damaged from it. So one thing that you really have to be careful of … leaving your camera and other gear in the car when it is sitting in the sun and really heating up. I won’t do it. It is just too risky for potential damage to the gear.

When the sun is strong, be careful about leaving a black camera directly exposed to the sun for any length of time (such as sitting on a tripod while you rest). It can be surprising how much a black camera can heat up which can potentially cause damage to the electronics on the camera and lens, plus it may even affect the lubricants in the lenses.

Another important heat issue is condensation. You know what happens when you bring a cold glass of water out into warm, humid air. It gets covered with water from condensation.

The same thing can happen to your camera when you bring a camera chilled by air-conditioning out into warm humid air. That can cause moisture to form on your lens surfaces, which can affect how quickly you can shoot. Condensation can also be a problem because you may get moisture building up inside the camera which is not good. Now if you are in the desert where there is no humidity, then you probably won’t have this problem.

So when you’re outside photographing this summer, remember to take care of yourself, take care of your gear, and look to be outside at the cooler times a day.

My friend, Chuck Summers, taking a break on a hot day.

About Rob Sheppard

I'm Rob Sheppard and my mission is to connect people and nature through photography with celebration and joy. Nature photography, for me, is about finding ways to create meaning and joy in your photography and connecting people with the natural world. I consider myself a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer. I have been busy over the years creating many books related to photography, including Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, and the National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography. A Nature Photography Manifesto and Reports from the Wild are available from Apple’s iBookstore. I get around as a speaker and workshop leader, and I am a Fellow with the North American Nature Photography Association. I was the long-time editor of the prestigious Outdoor Photographer magazine and presently am a contributing editor. My education was both as a photographer and a naturalist specializing in ecology and botany.
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7 Responses to Hot Summer Photography

  1. Lori says:

    Great tips Rob, thanks!

  2. Todd Henson says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said, and would stress the part about taking care of yourself. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you, more than you might think you’d need. And remember to drink every so often regardless of how thirsty you are. If you run out of water then stop shooting for the day until you can get more. And finally, don’t push yourself too hard on hot humid days, it’s just not worth it.

    I learned that lesson the hard way. I was at a great location with beautiful waterfalls and lots of trails to explore, but on a very hot and humid day. I ran out of water, but kept going because I felt fine and there was so much to see. Eventually, I started feeling really exhausted and light headed, and when I finally got home found I had a fever and felt kind of sick.

    Thankfully I was with my brother so I didn’t need to drive home. I’d developed a bad case of heat exhaustion, possibly bordering on heat stroke, though I didn’t know what either of those was at the time. But thankfully the symptoms faded and everything returned to normal, leaving me a just a tad wiser. Now I watch these things very closely this time of year.

    Thanks for the great reminders, Rob!

  3. David says:

    With the eclipse in August, those along the eclipse patch should pay close attention to you cautions if they are out shooting the eclipse.

  4. Rich Ball says:

    With respect to the summer heat precautions keep in mind that those of us in the category of “Senior Citizens” need to be even more careful. As we age our heat tolerance decreases. One more of those annoying things they don’t tell you about getting older.

    Plus if you have a four legged “shooting assistant” you need to really watch out for them. Dogs can overheat quite easily.

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