In many parts of the world, the first signs of winter are starting to set in. Or, if you live near my home in Canada, the “first signs of winter” means a miserable week-long blizzard and bone-chilling –39 degree Celsius temperatures. And since I shoot primarily with plastic cameras, weather changes everything.
I prefer to shoot in natural light, so right away film selection becomes crucial. I’m lucky to live in a city that gets a lot of sunlight, even in the winter. Blocks of grey days are rare, but during those snowy, blah times, I don’t always pack away my slow speed film. In fact, if I want moody, almost monotone images with a hint of patina-hued emulsion flare around the edges, I’ll pop a roll of very-expired Fuji Sensia 100 into one of my plastic Vivitar cameras. If it’s very cold, however, I have to be careful to keep these cameras in my jacket pocket, close to my body because as I’ve experienced, if they get too cold, the advance can stick and jam and be pretty much impossible to repair.
My Holgas are my primary winter workhorse cameras. I find that they don’t jam like 35mm cameras sometimes do, and when I fire the flash against the bright white snow I get dramatic vignetting and heightened colour saturation when cross-processing.
Another winter favourite is using instant film on exceptionally chilly days. If you’ve ever read the fine print on a package of Fuji Instax film, it suggests that it be used in 5 degree Celsius temperatures at the lowest. What happens if you use instant film on colder days? While you do run a risk of blank photos, I’ve found that most often, the images do come through, but take on a lavender tint that results in pale, almost ethereal photographs.
But whatever your camera and film preferences, winter can be a great time to experiment. Shoot in a storm, in the late afternoon twilight, on the coldest day of the year — you might be pleasantly surprised with the images you get.
How do you adapt your techniques or style to the changing weather? Share your thoughts with me!
Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.