Winter Snow Cold

Omaha in February
February in Omaha

Nebraska is in the northern half of the United States. We get winter. Because there is no mountain range directly to the north (or south) of us, there is usually a slight breeze or gusty wind. In late summer, it’s a hot wind. In the winter, well, it can be – stupid.

Any time after the first of October, it can get down to freezing (32F) but usually only overnight or for a couple days. Leaves could still be on trees as fall (autumn).  It has already snowed early in October. Ice storms can happen around then too. Halloween was cancelled one year. An early snow doesn’t usually hang around long because the ground is not frozen – yet.

Snow in early fall. Four seasons in one day.
Snow in early fall. Four seasons in one day.

Winter becomes semi official in late November and into December. Leaves go away and the grass turns brown. Temperatures could live near or below freezing for weeks at a time. January and February can be brutal. Although, last year, winter was extra mild with sparse snow and temperatures moderate. So it can be cyclical.

Snow in Omaha park Jamie Vesay WM 100_2648_2 copy
Snow in Omaha public park. There are evergreens here.

Compared to other States, we actually don’t get a large amount of annual snow. We will get at least one big snow storm each winter. Big, as in ten plus inches.  If this happens after the ground is frozen and temps stay cold for the rest of winter, that snow will remain until March. Some times, it will snow big early, then melt. But then snow again in smaller amounts – two to three inches here, maybe five inches there.

I won’t elaborate here about photography in snow.  You know, it’s bright, it’s white. But if it is cold, know your gear and the limitations (if there are any) in extreme  cold. These days, digital chips and prosumer lenses can present challenges. Many years ago, I shot with a 16mm film camera in fifty below zero and it was fine. “Did he just say fifty below? Fahrenheit?”

Snow in a neighborhood. Shovels and plows.
Snow in a neighborhood. Shovels and plows.

If it has snowed on your set or on the way to the set or is just getting in the way – you’ll have to move it. Sidewalks, entry ways, and parking lots all need to be cleared.  Don’t forget if you’re moving inside and the snow you’ll drag indoors. Snow is water. Mix in a little dirt and things can get messy. IF snow is packed or ice has formed – driving, walking, or wheeling carts through snow or over ice can be DANGEROUS. Use rock salt or an ice-melt product. Your local Coordinator should know where to get a snowplow.

Plowed snow in parking lot
Plowed snow in parking lot

Snow outside a Nebraska city is a whole other animal (and could be a separate blog post). Yes, plenty of other States get bigger snow, but when we get it bad (big) the Interstates can close, snow drifts can get feet-deep, and things can get REALLY dangerous. Similar to other northern States, Nebraska does have exit ramps with gates that can be closed during a storm. But no roads in Nebraska are “closed for the winter.”

Finally, if you’re shooting outside, you MUST STAY WARM. If you’re in the Locations department, it is your job to keep the crew warm. Wearing the right clothes is subjective. Layers, wool, thermal, and down are all great words to watch for on the label.  In snow, I wear a layer of external nylon, like rain pants or even snow pants to keep the wet snow away. It also protects from the wind. Form follows function.

HEATERS are essential. Depending on your budget, there are plenty of options in Nebraska. Propane powered bullet types and smaller space heaters are available through numerous rental places in Omaha or Lincoln. Consider patio heaters for a longer shoot. Remember NO PROPANE INDOORS. Watch for fire hazards with open flames. NEVER burn charcoal indoors! It will KILL you! Frankly, if it is below zero and windy – and you’re not dressed for it and there are no heaters, it will be uncomfortable.

Two words: Hot soup.

While we’d love to have you come shoot any time, just know about winter in Nebraska. Come and shoot any other time of year too. Until then, look at the warm side. It’s not impossible. And spring will be here any day now.

Have fun. Stay warm.

Images and words COPYRIGHT © Jamie Vesay  ASK for permission to use.


Edited 6/23/2019

It was a crew member from New York, here to shoot a commercial. While gazing at one of our ridiculous cloud displays he said, “I think this is the first time I’ve seen the sky touch the ground.” The aerial canvas is so gigantic because there is so little to get in the way.

I have witnessed incredible sunrises and sunsets over the years. The cushy gig is to work on a project that needs this shot. Scouting for a sunrise / sunset?  Really? Yes.

When the sun is up, as equal in spectacular are the clouds. In the old days, we referred to them as ad agency clouds. Of course the client (and DPs) want them for the shoot day after you go ahead and shoot them on a scout. Apologies if you don’t get the same thing.

Why of course I have no control over which types of clouds will show up on your shoot day.  But there is a better chance of seeing them when you have a sky like ours as to fill it with them. Yes, you can add them later if you don’t get any. You’ll just get the biggest blue screen you’ve ever worked with…

Best place to see the sun set near Omaha is from Iowa.

A few tips for you:

  • If you don’t have a savvy Gaffer, learn how to read a compass or get an app that indicates the true path of the sun. Little-known fact to the untrained eye: the sun does move north and south throughout the year, affecting the path of it being more to the north or south. Yes, it still rises in the east and sets in the west. Shocking I had to say that but I have had this discussion with more than one city dweller.
  • Allow extra time to be at your chosen location and be ready. Some of the best sunrise and sunset light is just before and after it happens.
  • Take it all in. You will be standing at a moment in time that will not be repeated. Relish it.

Images and words COPYRIGHT © Jamie Vesay ASK for permission to use.