I love Macro photography almost as much as Bird Photography because you always find something to photograph every few feet with a macro setup. Going outdoors with your Macro Setup in the heat of summer can challenge even the most ardent macro enthusiast. Here are some tips to help you survive and enjoy the hobby during hot humid summer months.
The below is not intended as a perfect checklist to follow but more of a reminder that the heat of summer can be dangerous and requires proper planning.
Depending on where you live the weather can spike to 100+ degrees quickly in the summer. This makes it important to check the weather forecast the day before to determine when the cooler times of the day are and normally that will be early morning. Where I live once the temperature reaches 90 degrees (32 Celsius) it will remain that way until the sun begins to set. Thus, in the hot humid summer months, your best bet is to rise early and be on the trail right at sunrise. My window of opportunity to be at my favorite shooting location is between 7 a.m. until about 10 a.m. This provides a couple of good hours of macro shooting before the heat becomes unbearably hot. So, starting early is important to your summer outdoor macro photography fun.
Geographic Locations - determine humidity. Photographers shooting in arid climates may tolerate heat more effectively due to a lack of humidity which allows the arid air to evaporate sweat from your skin keeping you cooler in the process - good hydration is key. Those living in and around coastal or semi-tropical locations will most likely experience oppressive humidity levels when temperatures reach higher levels and will suffer more.
Other factors that play a role in how well you can tolerate summer heat and humidity is your physical condition.
Adjust your setup to make it easier to carry - the less weight the less stress and energy spent in the pursuit of the perfect macro image. I have several macro lenses from several pounds to a few ounces and as the summer heat temperature rise I reach for the lighter gear option
Avoid the pitfalls
- Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated drinks before you start your outing and plan on carrying plenty of water with you. My personal rule of thumb is to carry one 16oz bottle of water per hour of outdoor exposure - your mileage may vary and may depend on your terrain, heat and humidity levels.
- When you start to feel tired it may be the early signs of heat exhaustion. My personal rule is when I start to feel tired I call it quits and head back to the car and consume water while on my way there. No macro outing is worth personal injury.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion which can lead to heatstroke and eventually death.
- Do not stray far from a cool retreat. If you become too hot having a place you can escape to quickly is very important. I carry a small cooler of ice in my car in case I ever need it for a quick cool down, and I never walk too far from my car. In the early morning hours when the temperatures are cooler, you may be tempted to walk several miles away, only to discover the temperature starts to rise quickly. I try to find areas that have small loop trails that always keep me close to my auto.
- Carry your mobile device and be mindful of coverage. Nothing worse than having an emergency and not having coverage.
- If you can, travel in pairs, that way you can keep an eye on each other for the signs of heat exhaustion.
- Dress for the occasion. I dress using very light materials that are designed to wick wetness away and does not trap body heat.
- Avoid Sun Burn. Hats, Caps, and Sunscreen are your friends.
Yes you can still enjoy the art of Macro Photography during the Summer Months by being mindful of the dangers from heat exposure, properly planning your outings, maintaining your hydration level, and knowing when to call it a day!
Finally, have a backup plan. When you have a desire to do some Macro Photography and the weather is too much to bear, It may be best to simply stay home and do indoor prop shots of things/flowers around the house or even go out in your own backyard for a few minutes. This will allow you to scratch the macro itch and hone your skills in a controlled environment that can keep you cool and safe.
NOTE: All images shown in this article were taken over the course of two separate outings due to very high temperatures and humidity where I live.