Art Model, Rhonda ©2010 Terrell Neasley

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” ~ Yogi Berra

I don’t know where you live, but no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, it’s July. I know my peeps in Vegas are catching 112°F heat. That’s 44°Celsius for those of you who relate more to that temp scale. Here in Hanoi, we’ve been getting rain to cool things down this week, but we’ve hit 3 digit temps, too (but maybe like 101). The heat can be insufferable and you’d be right to stay indoors. So does this mean that you need to suspend all outdoor shooting for the next 3 months? Are you now restricted to solely studio work during this time? Nope!

Both Mirrorless cameras and DSLR’s have a standard operating temperature max of about 104°F. So at 112°, that sensor is cooking. Cameras that don’t have weather sealing will have a tougher time in these temps, especially where humidity is a factor. And don’t even think about doing video at these temps. Try to do 4K and your goose is cooked. And by goose, I’m not referring to the relatively large well-known waterfowl. I’m talking about your camera over heating with permanent sensor damage.

So let me share with you TEN (10) good options on how to keep shooting despite the hot weather.

1. Find Ways to Avoid Direct Sun on Your Camera

Art Model, Jenny, Near Tumbes, Northern Peru ©2019 Terrell Neasley

The most obvious thing is to keep the camera out of direct sunlight. Just shielding your camera with towel or covering it with a hat can go a long way. SHADE is your camera’s friend. And while I’m at it, remember this tip. Treat your camera like you would your kid. DO NOT leave your camera gear sitting in the car while you go grab something out of the grocery store. It doesn’t matter if you’ll only be in there a minute. Take your gear with you. And it helps in preventing theft.

In Vegas heat, the plastic molding of your camera body can actually melt inside a car as the interior temperature rises to 180°F. Not only that, you can ruin the lubricants inside your camera as well as causing seals to expand beyond the factory specifications. Then you are left wondering why your lens has such a rough feel when you zoom out. Or why your shutter assembly suddenly fails. The heat affects your sensor big time. The reason you get noise when shooting at high ISOs is because of the heat produced at that level. Well you can be at ISO 100 and still get noise like that in high heat environments.

Consider keeping a ice pack or cooler handy. You can even put a frozen water bottle in your camera bag just to keep the temperature down. You don’t need to put the bottle right up against the camera though. Be careful because the sudden temperature change from the cooler to the ambient air can cause condensation. If that happens, let the camera sit in the ambient air for a bit till the condensation evaporates.

2. Find the Two C’s of Shade 

I’ve done model shoots at practically all hours of the day even in the desert heat of Nevada. What I do is simple. I seek out shaded areas in the Two C’s of Shade: Canopies and Canyons. Its not that hard to find trees that afford enough cover from the sun. You can Google Map it and find adequate locations to help you. When I first moved to Las Vegas back in the day, I ran my art nude workshops at 1 pm, BUT in the shade. Some participants were a bit out of shape to handle too much heat. 

I had some who’s age required less strenuous environments. I even had an actor who performed in “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Venetian. Getting a really dark tan was not in the script! Finding a strip of trees will be easiest in places that still get water such as in the low grounds of canyons. But canyons themselves can also serve shade just due to the steepness of the rocks. As long as the sun is not directly overhead, there’ll be shade on one side or the other.

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” Russell Baker

3. Find the Early Birds

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

It’s coolest earlier in the morning. So schedule shoots to be completed BEFORE 9am. By 10, the temp is already rising. Cooler temps don’t return until 6pm. So schedule shoots early in the morning which means you must find models willing to be GET UP early! Usually, this is not a problem, but like most photogs, we’ve all got a story to tell about late starts. Oh, and don’t forget extra batteries. Heat can really tax the battery power. In fact, don’t leave batteries in your camera when you are not shooting. Take them out of your camera. The last thing you want is for a battery to explode INSIDE your camera. You’re welcome.

4. Find a Good Night Shoot

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Along with early morning shoots, try your hand at some night time shooting. You can get adventurous and paint with light or use the full moon as your only light source. I’ve done several of these, especially during a Super Moon. The model has to stay still… maybe for about an 8-second exposure. 

On the other hand, you might also consider speedlights or on-location studio lights powered with Vagabond battery packs. I’ve done this too. B&C Camera has some 200 to 1000w studio light options. You can buy what you need or you can simply RENT them from the B&C Rental Department. See…Too Easy!

5. Find a Great Travel Location

Member, Black Souls Motorcycle Club of
Esteli, Nicaragua photographed in Somoto

Go somewhere! Get the hell out of the heat! Do a day trip up north somewhere. It may still be as high as 90, but compared to temps in the 100s, that’s the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke! Book a regional flight somewhere. Better yet, head south of the equator! Get a map, and start picking out places that are naturally cooler. 

In Hanoi, that’s going to be heading north up into the mountains to Sa Pa, Hà Giang, or Cao Bằng. In Las Vegas, you don’t even have to do that far. Check out ICE BOX CANYON! You can expect anywhere from a 10 to 15° temperature drop back in that canyon. Check out Mt. Charleston with similar temp drops. Colorado is a 10-hour drive. Get some elevation to reach the cooler temps. Again, Google Maps some of these areas and check the weather online.

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” – Russell Baker

6. Find the Melanin

Art Model, Rhonda ©2010 Terrell Neasley

Oh yeah, we’re made for this heat! Talking about black people! We just hate it! People of color handle the harmful UV rays of the sun better than our melanin-deficient peers. Even so, that’s not to say we are immune to the effects of UV radiation on our skin, but we can handle longer exposures to it. Sunscreen is still a requirement! If you don’t work with darker-skinned people that much, quit fucking around and mix up your portfolio a little bit. Don’t wait until you got 2 feet of snow. That’s not our element. I mean… it could be cool, though. But master the sun first.

7. Find Outdoor Structures

Art Model, Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley

I like coming across a weird or abandoned structure. The best I’ve seen is some kilns that I found on Google Earth the night before a photo shoot. I searched the area I knew I’d be in and discovered these kilns maybe 20 miles from my objective site. It was a pain and a risk taking my car onto a logging road trail, but I did it and it was worth it. It was beyond anything I could have expected.

8. Find the Clouds

Art Model, Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley

Another option during the summer is to take advantage of cloudy days. At some point it’s going to rain. In the deserts of Nevada, we get monsoon rains during July. Just check the weather reports and look for those cloudy days. 

9. Find the Water

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Self-explanatory, right? Easy to cool off, right? This sounds smart but you still have to be careful here. Going to the beach an have it’s own problems in that you are likely in direct sun with sand reflecting it back up at you. It’s easy to get caught up in your photoshoot and forget to be smart under that sun when it’s cooking your brain. Even with the water, limit your time in the sun. If you can, look for a water source in the canyons/valleys that may be covered under a tree canopy. 

10. Find Wisdom

Art Model, Panda ©2014 Terrell Neasley

You definitely have to be smart about this. Be wise. Don’t be stupid. Take NO unnecessary risks. Bring more water than you think you’ll need. Bring a buddy whose sole purpose is to be a second pair of observant eyes, pack more water, AND who can assist in case something bad happens. If it’s just you and a model and one of you goes down from a twisted ankle, having somebody else there is a blessing. And be sure to take care of yourself, as well. Sunscreen. A wide-brim hat. Light-weight clothing covering exposed skin. And most importantly… HYDRATE!!! Even if you are not thirsty, drink water anyway.

So there you go. 10 good tips to keep shooting despite the hot weather. Be smart, but most of all, be safe. Happy Shooting! Hydrate, DAMMIT!!