Taking pictures in harsh cold

posted on 25th of february, 2012

I was recently taking pictures outside in a temperature about -30C. I noticed that at such temperature, when you repeatedly take off your lens cap or changing filters without gloves or thin cloves that are warm due to your own body temperature, then it may happen that your filter glass or the front element of the lens (if not using filters) freeze up due to humid and warmth coming from the thin gloves or bare hand. When the the front glass or filter is frosty, then it is highly suggested not to scratch off the ice. You may end up ruining your lens of filter. I used filters (sometimes UV, sometimes CP). Both my filters got frozen because when I took off the lens cap and my palm was too close to the filter. I changed the filter then to CP but same thing again, humid from the glove fell to the filter glass and ice became onto the filter immediately. I was wondering what I was doing wrong, how could that happen.
- I noticed that I should not hold filters above the palm with more than 2 fingers. If i held the filter from side, everything was fine.

- To get the ice off from the filter glass, I noticed that when waving the filter in the air, a thin layer of frost steams away and filter is ready to use again. At least it worked for me.

About tripod head, hours and hours outside at -30C the liquid (oil or whatever is used there) becomes very stale and turning bars is almost impossible. I was using Manfrotto 410 Junior head which is not a ball head. I think the cold is not a problem for ball heads.

Old batteries do die quickly at that temperature, even if not using LCD at all. To lengthen battery life, take of the battery from the camera while not shooting (even if you have to walk 5-10 minutes until you take next shot) and put it inside your glove. The warmth from the palm really makes the battery to last longer. I also bought a new battery (not original, made by unknown :) and just amazing how well it performed at such temperature. So, new batteries for cold weathers are definitely better than old ones. Previous day when the temperature was -17C, a new batter last for the whole day (and the battery was inside camera whole day and the camera was hinging on my neck).

In the evening, at sunset at the top of a mountain at -30C + the wind factor (heavy wind) the temperature was definitely below -40C. My black camera bag and the camera I held in hand became gray because of the frost. But as long as glasses were clear the camera was able to take pictures even at such temperature, only the zoom ring on the lens became a bit hard to move (I used Canon 40D with a kit lens 17-85mm + CP or UV filter).

To sum up:
- be careful how you take off the lens cap and/or hold your filters. Keep humidity as far from lens and filter as possible. Once its icy, do not scratch it off. If the front element of the lens if frosty, you should stop taking pictures or just change the lens.

- If the day should be bright during your trip outside at such low temperature, you should really thing if to take tripod along or not. Some tripod head at hours in -30C may become useless.

- Put batteries into the glove next to your hand to keep them worm and lengthen its working period. If possible, use new batteries. 2-3 years old (used) batteries die quickly at low temperature.

Comments (23)

Posted by Asakalaskas on March 20, 2012
Living in Fairbanks Alaska I run into the same problems, and yes we could stay inside, but since it's like this 9 months out of the year, either you figure out a way to deal, or put your camera away for 75% of the year. Since I lean towards outdoor photography that isn't an option. Nice winter shots, I personally love them.
Posted by Androniques on March 16, 2012
Quite interesting, not sure about usefulness in my case, but nice to know... :)
Posted by Risto40 on March 14, 2012
If i'd be near the sea and its -40C outside, I would definitely stay inside as well. But far from the sea, -40C feels much warmer than near sea because of dry air. But of course, full day outside at -40C could be too long/much. But a full day outside at -30C (at dry air and almost no wind), it's totally OK. I was surprised too that I did not feel cold. I didn't actually feel cold at -40C either, but again, I was outside only for an hour. But the strong wind was extremely annoying. The wind blew directly from the direction of sunset so I managed to take only few pictures before the filter got frosty.

To Calyx22: I think warm summer pictures sell much better than cold winter pictures. Most people still like to travel to south and therefore nice warm sunny pictures are more needed for advertising :s Next trip will definitely be to a some place warm :p

low temperatures in mind.. i posted a bit funny blog article here - when temperature drops... [link=https://blog.dreamstime.com/2012/01/27/when-the-temperature-drops_art37013]...(More)
Posted by Elifranssens on March 14, 2012
Another option is just to stay inside... my god, going out taking photographs at -40C... those poor batteries are not supposed to be outside in such conditions, and the same counts for us humans...
Posted by Calyx22 on March 14, 2012
What a great set of winter themed photos! I think these will be great seasonal sellers, and potential for sports as well. Those are very helpful tips for frigid weather. Since I live in Saudi, that will only happen for me if I travel somewhere cold in winter. But I will file them away anyway! Looks like you made the most of a bitterly cold day. Best wishes for their successful sales. :)
Posted by Serjedi on March 07, 2012
Amazing pictures, really I feel cold when I look at them.. :-)
Posted by Baldas1950 on March 04, 2012
Great photos. Congratulation for your big effort!
Posted by Neillockhart on February 28, 2012
Good writeup, thanks for sharing.
Posted by Laurasinelle on February 28, 2012
really great images!
Posted by Noonie on February 27, 2012
Beautiful!! Worth the effort.
Posted by Inganielsen on February 27, 2012
Wow, I love the cold! :) Thank you for the tips! Wonderful pictures!! :)
Posted by Nero67 on February 27, 2012
Beautiful pics!!!
Posted by Jianbinglee on February 26, 2012
GREAT !Thanks!
Posted by FabioConcetta on February 26, 2012
Nice images, congratulations!
Posted by Egomezta on February 25, 2012
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... That's cold... Great images.
Posted by Jdanne on February 25, 2012
Thanks for the advice! Nice winter photos.
Posted by Arvacsaba on February 25, 2012
Good to know, thanks for the informations.
Posted by Vaivirga on February 25, 2012
Nice pics, thanks for the information.
Posted by Mariaam on February 25, 2012
Great winter photos!
Posted by Yuritz on February 25, 2012
Nice pics,good luck with the sales
Posted by TMarchev on February 25, 2012
Good photos:) Congrats!
Posted by Risto40 on February 25, 2012
As long as you keep walking, everything is fine :D
Posted by Rosedarc on February 25, 2012
You're brave going out at such low temperatures. How did you manage to keep warm yourself?? :-)

Comments (23)

This article has been read 2892 times. 9 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Risto Hunt.

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