Neither Snow, nor Rain, nor Gloom of Night
It's getting to be that time of year again when the days grow shorter and the weather becomes more unpredictable. Sometimes, the temptation may be to pack up your camera until the wildflowers start blooming again next spring. But don't let a little thing like inclement weather or an even smaller thing like early darkness get in your way.
Many cameras these days are fairly well sealed against the elements, but not all. Before you venture out in the rain or snow, check your camera manual to see what it says on the subject. If you don't find anything, the internet is filled with discussion forums and other resources for users of just about anything and everything. If you spend a bit of time online, you can probably find postings from others who use the same gear you do. Human nature dictates that users who are upset about something will often be more vocal than those who are satisfied, so don't be too alarmed if you find at least somebody who had their camera – the same camera you own – utterly ruined when a single drop of rain fell on it. But unless that camera model is indeed a total loser you should also find people defending it and singing its praises.
Regardless of what you find though, you can definitely shoot with your camera in the rain and snow provided you take sufficient steps to protect it. Some cameras will require more protection than others, but you can take great pictures in the rain no matter what you shoot with. A number of companies make products to protect camera gear from the elements but sometimes your best option is also the cheapest. Take your typical clear plastic bag and poke a hole in one corner. Now force the front of your camera lens through it so that the bag stretches to create a form-fit seal around it. By reaching your hand into the regular bag opening you can operate the controls as normal. The same opening will allow you to mount your camera on a tripod as normal too.
If it's cold enough to snow, there are additional things to be careful of. Snow has an amazing ability to get into your camera bag and other places you'd prefer it didn't. And your breath contains water vapor which can freeze in the cold. Pay extra attention to what you are doing in the snow in order to avoid problems. Make sure you keep warm yourself too. You may feel plenty warm hiking to your destination, but once you get there and spend a while standing around waiting for the perfect light, you can easily catch a chill if you aren't prepared. Dress in layers. And bring enough layers for when the sun goes down.
But cold and wetness aren't the only potential adversaries set to confront outdoor photographers in the coming months. Especially at higher latitudes such as the Pacific Northwest, days get quite short in winter. It may same silly to be afraid of the dark, but unless you want to spend a night stranded on a mountain (you don't) you need to be prepared with a flashlight. Or two flashlights in case one fails. LED bulbs are more reliable than the older incandescent bulbs, but batteries don't last forever and sometimes things fail for unknown reasons. If you're headed out before sunrise and your flashlight dies you can always simply wait until the sun comes up and everything will be well. But if you're on your way back to your car after sunset and your flashlight dies, it's a long wait for the sun to come up again.
Short days and cold, rainy or snowy weather. It happens every year, so don't let it get in the way of your photography. Sometimes unusual weather can lead to the best shots. Only by getting out there can you find out if this is true for you. Be prepared.