Photography in the extreme cold

This post is an addendum to EP 03 My Creative Process on my Youtube channel. In that episode we look at a basic CODB, as if you are just starting out. We’ll populate a few of the typical line items you’ll need to get your business off the ground. Check it out here.

Today I'm discussing shooting photos and video in extremely cold temperatures. What is extremely cold? That's a subjective number of course, depending on where you live in the world. But right now, it's -23ºF outside of the studio or -30ºC. Regardless of the metric you use to measure the temperature, there's no debating it's extremely cold outside.

Let’s cover a few tips that should help you succeed in the cold when the temps go negative. When you take your camera and lens from a warm, humid environment like your home, studio or car there’s a good possibility it will flash freeze. Wha? The surface of the camera and in particular the lens element, will condensate, form a very thin layer of moisture. This layer will immediately freeze. Once the happens, it’s very difficult to rectify. The shoots over, that sunrise you were hoping to bag? Forget about it. You’ll need to take the camera back inside to a warm environment, thaw it out, dry it off and start again. There’s a little hack you can deploy to buffer the camera from the instant shock of cold, dry air. Place it a gallon zip lock bag, or a dry loc bag if you have one and toss in a few silicone packets. The bag will gradually cool to the ambient air, over a period of 10 to 15 mins. This will help prevent the condensation. The silicon packets will risk away any moisture as well. When you are ready to shoot, so will the camera.

Next, the lens. The metal barrel will shrink and constrict the focusing rings making it difficult for the auto focus to do its job. It’ll also be harder to manual focus. The LCD on the back of the camera may be slow, lagging or simply stop working.

Last, I’m not a fan of using metal tripods when the weather goes below freezing. I try to work as much as possible without my gloves on, it’s just easier, faster and more efficient manipulating the tiny buttons on the camera, adjusting the lens or setting up the tripod. I prefer using carbon fiber tripods as they are slightly more comfortable to touch than metal.

A few tips for those of you willing to freeze for an interesting shot.

Adam SenatoriComment