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Thread: Cold-weather shooting

  1. #1
    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Cold-weather shooting

    Hi all,

    Relatives who own a northern tour company have invited me up to Churchill for three days!!! Am still waiting for details, but presumably, polar bears and Northern lights are on the menu. Forecast temperatures are colder than usual, in the mid-teens minus Celsius, day and night. How many batteries would you advise I carry? I have two, but haven't enough experience doing extended cold-weather shooting to know how long it takes to warm them up inside one's jacket.

    Any and all related tips (cold weather, Northern lights, wildlife) welcome.

    Janis

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Janis,
    Both B&H and Adorama have some tips regarding cold weather shooting...

    B&H: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora...er-photography

    Adorama: https://www.adorama.com/alc/0008151/...otography-tips

    I have some tips from Richard:

    I would shoot auto exposure bracketing and if there is snow on the ground, I would also add a stop of exposure compensation. This would give you three exposures: one as the meter reads, one 1-stop above the meter reading and one 2-stops above the meter reading. This will prevent the snow from appearing gray. On my Canon DSLR cameras, setting AEB and burst mode will give me three bracketed shots each time I press the shutter button and then stop until the next time I press the shutter button.

    A pair of gloves that will allow you to keep your fingers warm yet allow you to touch the camera controls would be a great addition.

    Also, if possible, dress in Layers. It is sometimes easy to get overheated when bundled up for Arctic cold...

    Don't forget sunglasses! Sometimes Arctic conditions with snow on the ground can be very bright. I have a pair of non prescription and non polarized lasses that have over the counter close-up bifocal lenses. I have a hard time viewing my LCD and my viewfinder with polarized glasses. I don't need glasses for most activity but I am i dire need of help with close up viewing. I bought these glasses at a fair for twelve dollars and they work great.

    Along that line, A CPL for your lens would cut down on reflections.

    Have fun and post lots of images...

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    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Thanks, Richard. I had seen the B&H article, but not the one at Adorama. Based on what they have to say, I think I should get at least one extra camera battery. I've got a pair of gloves that let you poke your shutter digits out, so I will wear those inside some warmer mitts. We all dress in layers here in Winnipeg, so I have that covered. And my prescription sunglasses travel with me wherever I go. Hmm, I hadn't thought of CPLs. I lost the six I had in the break-in last February and haven't got around to replacing them. Thanks for mentioning that. Might be good to get the wide-angle covered at least.

    The Cotton Carrier arrived last week btw; haven't had a chance to field test it yet, but I am very pleased so far with the design, quality of manufacture and customer service. There was a bit of delay filling my order, so they credited me the cost of shipping and kept me informed of their progress. It doesn't fit under my Canada Goose coat, but will no doubt fit over it, so I will likely take it up to Churchill with me. Thanks again for the recommendation.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    I was going to say more than one spare battery. I personally would consider a CPL essential because of the glare one often has on snow. They work least well on wide-angle lenses; they can cause uneven darkening.

    Re metering: rather than using exposure compensation, I often shoot in manual mode, spot meter off the snow, and then open up 1-2 stops.

    Re the cotton carrier: I have had one for several years, and I find it a big help when I am hiking with heavy gear. However, I've never used mine in the winter. it has a big flat section that the camera attaches to, and I think that might compress the down underneath it.

    You might consider handwarmers that you can stick in your gloves from time to time to warm your hands back up.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Living in Winnipeg means you are more used to the extreme cold than most of the rest of us here. I definitely shoot at -25C - -30C quite regularly in the winter.

    I usually carry two extra batteries that I have in a shirt pocket in a ziploc bag. The main reason is that the air trapped under all that insulation (i.e. your coat) is very humid and I don't want any moisture getting onto the batteries. This will freeze almost instantly and if there is any ice on the battery contacts, the battery will not function properly.

    When a battery gets low on charge, I return it to a ziploc bag and warm it up again by placing it in a shirt pocket against my body; cold batteries close to the skin are definitely something you will notice. Batteries lose their charge when they get cold and warming them up does restore it. I usually travel with four batteries; but then I have a battery grip on my camera and that means I have one there and one in the camera body. The other two are the spares that I keep warm.

    Be very, very careful if it is extremely cold out. Plastics have something called a "glass transition temperature" (or GTT); and if varies from material to material. Even the most cold resilient plastics hit this point somewhere in the - 25C to -40C range, so be very careful with the battery and memory card doors when opening and closing them. Once plastics hit their GTT, they can shatter just like glass.

    Moisture is another issue. Take a camera out of your camera padded camera bag with relatively moist air from the inside of a building, this will condense and freeze when you take it out of the camera bag, as soon as it hits the cold air. What I try to do is open up my camera bag and remove the lens covers while driving to the photo site. The air in the vehicle tends to be dryer than building interiors and this gives the equipment a chance to adjust.

    After the shoot, especially if it does not involve a long car drive, I will disassemble my gear and put lenses (with the lens cap and body cap into a large ziploc bag. I do the same thing with the camera body. This traps the dry outside air inside the bag and when I return to the building, the relatively humid inside air will condense on the camera gear. If it is inside a ziploc bag, the condensation occurs on the bag and not the camera. Once the camera gear gets to ambient temperature, you can wipe the moisture off the bag and remove the camera gear. I generally leave the bags somewhere warm so that they are pliable and do not break in the extreme cold.

    Watch your exposed skin when coming into contact with metal. The moisture in your skin will freeze and stick to cold metal. This is one reason I use carbon fiber tripods and adjust the head with my gloves only. Be careful in positioning a tripod in the snow as one can usually not predetermine how deep the legs will sink into the snow.

    Camera gear is not temperature rated to much below 0 degrees C. Check your camera manual just to make sure. If the camera or lenses get sluggish and it is not operating smoothly, its time to stop shooting and put your camera away to warm up. You don't want to break your camera gear.

    Try to have your gear set up before you leave. Trying to install a filter on a lens with gloves is not an easy task. Try to avoid lens changes as much as possible; there can be moisture in the mirror chamber and you don't want ice forming in there. Be especially careful if it is snowing; I try to avoid lens changes in an unsheltered area if it is snowing.

    Clothing you probably have covered. I tend to layer up and move layers on and off, as needed. Will try to have extra stuff in a backpack for handy access; including spares (putting a hat or gloves on after they have fallen into the snow is not a nice experience). Warm footwear with good, deep treads is mandatory.

    One of the toughest things for me is looking through the viewfinder to frame the shot. I wear glasses and when my nose gets close to the viewfinder, the moist air I exhale will be directed onto my glasses and condense there. It's hard to focus when one can't see. I remove my glasses and wave them around until the clear. If you find a better solution, please let me know! Don't forget your sunglasses!

    I tend to watch my time carefully, especially in windy conditions. I have ended up with frost bite, shooting in the cold. It's all to easy to lose track of things when focused on getting the shot.

    There are probably a few things I've forgotten. I look forward to seeing your images!
    Last edited by Manfred M; 7th November 2017 at 02:07 AM.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Manfred makes some very good points... I spent a year in Winnipeg when I was in the military and grew up a couple hundred km north of Whitehorse... watch for condensation!

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by DanK View Post
    it has a big flat section that the camera attaches to, and I think that might compress the down underneath it.
    Interesting point, Dan. Worth trying it out, anyway, and seeing what temps it is good for. The forecast temperatures are not scary to me, but there is liable to be a considerable windchill factor, so I think I will pick up some handwarmers, and take a range of weights of long underwear.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by purplehaze View Post
    Interesting point, Dan. Worth trying it out, anyway, and seeing what temps it is good for. The forecast temperatures are not scary to me, but there is liable to be a considerable windchill factor, so I think I will pick up some handwarmers, and take a range of weights of long underwear.
    Janis - I'm a long-time Cotton Carrier user and do use it in the winter over a down filled jacket. I have not noticed any real issues of being either warmer or colder when using it. Just make sure you adjust it to fit wearing the coat. You might need some help getting the waist strap untwisted when putting it on, especially if you are all dressed in winter clothing. I bought the tripod attachment so that I can use it with and without a tripod. It only comes in the Arca-Swiss mount, I believe.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by Manfred M View Post
    I usually carry two extra batteries that I have in a shirt pocket in a ziploc bag.
    Oh, good; had not thought of the bag.

    Once plastics hit their GTT, they can shatter just like glass.
    Hmm, was thinking about renting a second body to take up with me, to avoid changing lenses, but maybe the risks of harm are too great?

    I generally leave the bags somewhere warm so that they are pliable and do not break in the extreme cold.
    In the past, I have always put my entire camera bag into a large green garbage bag before coming in from the cold, but I think I will give your approach a try.

    One of the toughest things for me is looking through the viewfinder to frame the shot. I wear glasses and when my nose gets close to the viewfinder, the moist air I exhale will be directed onto my glasses and condense there.
    Ditto to that. I'll make some inquiries of the locals to see what they do.

    I tend to watch my time carefully, especially in windy conditions.
    Yes, thanks, I am prone to losing myself in the task. But I'll have more than one reason to stay alert in that environment.

    Useful tips, Manfred; thank you.

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    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by Manfred M View Post
    Janis - I'm a long-time Cotton Carrier user and do use it in the winter over a down filled jacket. I have not noticed any real issues of being either warmer or colder when using it. Just make sure you adjust it to fit wearing the coat. You might need some help getting the waist strap untwisted when putting it on, especially if you are all dressed in winter clothing. I bought the tripod attachment so that I can use it with and without a tripod. It only comes in the Arca-Swiss mount, I believe.
    Oh, good to know! I bought the tripod attachment, too. I use Arca-Swiss, but I saw on one of the Cotton Carrier videos that they sell a Manfrotto-style attachment that goes on top of the Arca-Swiss-style attachment. It turns out that that is what the hub washer is for, to enable the hub to clear the second plate.

    My tripod is carbon fibre, but it is a lightweight model. I am trying to think of what I could use to weight it that will already be in my luggage.

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    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140 View Post
    Manfred makes some very good points... I spent a year in Winnipeg when I was in the military and grew up a couple hundred km north of Whitehorse... watch for condensation!
    Thanks, Martin. I am thinking that is going to be my number one enemy.

    I have fond memories of the summer I spent in the Yukon and Alaska, too long ago. How were your childhood winters? I'm thinking they might not be as harsh as what we get on the prairies.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by purplehaze View Post
    Thanks, Martin. I am thinking that is going to be my number one enemy.

    I have fond memories of the summer I spent in the Yukon and Alaska, too long ago. How were your childhood winters? I'm thinking they might not be as harsh as what we get on the prairies.
    I dunno about that... I've seen -58 C... dead calm... no wind chill... and seen it go below -40 for six weeks on end... mind you... Winterpeg gets the wind and snow we didn't get up north.... How about we agree on equally harsh but for different reasons?

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by CP140 View Post
    How about we agree on equally harsh but for different reasons?
    Agreed.

    The current forecast for Churchill look pretty tolerable, but cloudy, so perhaps no Northern lights.

    I decided I couldn't let yet another rich shooting opportunity go by without the benefit of a second body, and so I went out and got myself a D750 this afternoon. I was going to wait until next year to go full frame, but I have been thirsting for greater low-light capacity, so, why not? I ran across this quote from Matthew 6:21 this morning: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Seems apt.
    Last edited by purplehaze; 12th November 2017 at 12:15 AM.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Too bad about the cloudy conditions. The northern lights would be quite good at that latitude.

    However should the opportunity arise; here is my checklist for the aurora

    Lens
    The widest angle lens you have; set to widest field
    Aperture set to wide open
    Focus distance set to just a hair less than infinity
    DUCT TAPE the focus ring so you cannot move it
    Lens in manual focus mode

    Camera
    ISO set to 1600
    Manual mode on the camera set to BULB and widest aperture
    Camera focus mode set to manual (you want to ensure there is NO way the focus will shift)
    Remote release for camera

    A D750 should be close to the D700 I use so rough approximations for actual times

    Very Bright Green Aurora with red or purple on the lower margin: seven to ten seconds
    Bright Green twelve to eighteen seconds
    Average aurora twenty to forty seconds
    Have the camera back display set to low illumination and HIGHLIGHT so you can check for "blinkies" and adjust accordingly.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Thanks, Trevor! I hope I get to use that.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    A few years ago I received some heating pads. Little pads with a chemical stuff in it, SodiumAcetat. For use it's liquid and with a metal ring in it. If you bend that ring you start a chemical reaction and that substance is getting massive. It produces heath and that heath can be used to warm up your hands or pocket. You can reactivate that stuff by putting them in boiled water. I did use them sometime in the winter. Was fun. Gave them away after a while.

    See the chemical section.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heating_pad

    Google on "heating pad SodiumAcetat". Compare the prices on Amazon and Alibaba. The latter are more realistic.

    They're often used for advertisements/relation gifts.

    George

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by george013 View Post
    A few years ago I received some heating pads. Little pads with a chemical stuff in it, SodiumAcetat. For use it's liquid and with a metal ring in it. If you bend that ring you start a chemical reaction and that substance is getting massive. It produces heath and that heath can be used to warm up your hands or pocket. You can reactivate that stuff by putting them in boiled water. I did use them sometime in the winter. Was fun. Gave them away after a while.

    See the chemical section.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heating_pad

    Google on "heating pad SodiumAcetat". Compare the prices on Amazon and Alibaba. The latter are more realistic.

    They're often used for advertisements/relation gifts.

    George
    George - these chemical heating pads are quite commonly available in Canada. Pretty well every hardware and outdoor equipment store carries them. I have a couple somewhere around the house.

    If one is quite far from warmth; hunters for instance, then they can make sense. Most photographers donít get so far away from someplace to warm up,so the extra space they take up is often not worth it.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by Manfred M View Post
    George - these chemical heating pads are quite commonly available in Canada. Pretty well every hardware and outdoor equipment store carries them. I have a couple somewhere around the house.

    If one is quite far from warmth; hunters for instance, then they can make sense. Most photographers donít get so far away from someplace to warm up,so the extra space they take up is often not worth it.
    The name of the thread is "cold-weather shooting".
    You could use them in the camera bag. Keep your stuff a little warmer. It's just a hint. Up to Janis if she sees some benefits in it.

    George

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    Quote Originally Posted by george013 View Post
    The name of the thread is "cold-weather shooting".
    You could use them in the camera bag. Keep your stuff a little warmer. It's just a hint. Up to Janis if she sees some benefits in it.

    George
    It's an interesting idea I had not thought of, so I plan to test it this winter to see what kind of effect these have. They don't last all that long as a heat source, but if they provide a way of letting me shoot longer on a very cold day, I am definitely open to testing it. Other than poking a hole in the heating pad lining and having it leak into my camera bag, I can't think of any obvious downsides.

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    Re: Cold-weather shooting

    George Why in the world would you put the warmers in your camera bag, as they would warm your stuff a little as you state. Now take that stuff a littler warmer into the cold air and watch the frost form on it. Not a good thing, My gear is left out in my car all winter long never coming into the house, the batteries are always changed out, and charged. To a person who often shoots in up to -35 C that has to be one of the top most worst suggestions ever.

    Allan

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