Surviving Photographing In Extremely Cold Conditions – Part 2

I don’t profess to be an expert on these matters and the comments below are purely my opinion, but after 5 trips to the arctic, I feel I do have a handle on what works and what doesn’t in these harsh conditions.

Operating for so long in temperatures around -15C and lower, has thrown up some interesting equipment issues. Whilst the Nikon Z system has had some minor niggles, it’s generally performed well in these cold conditions. The first problem I encountered was the monitor going off; this proved to be caused by snow on the eyepiece sensor. Then the collapsible lens froze shut at a mere -13C which isn’t that cold, so I have to keep the lens extended to make it useable. Now I’m aware of these issues, working round them is easy.

The controls on the Z7 have proved big enough to use with a double gloved hand and the battery life has been surprisingly good. A battery has generally lasted all day, provided the camera gets a good warm up at mid-day. If a camera gets really cold, it will turn itself off, but once warmed, the battery will run on again for some time.

My Nikon Z 50 has also performed well in these conditions. The picture quality is superb and I’m a huge fan of this little camera. The buttons are just about big enough to operate with a gloved hand, but the touch screen controls are un-useable in these conditions.

One of our group has a Fuji camera with buttons on the handgrip and it has proved difficult to operate with a double gloved hand without accidentally catching these buttons.

Camera and button size is a definite issue and I suspect that the Olympus OM amongst others would prove to be too small to operate with a gloved hand, as will most compacts.

After my first trip to Greenland in 2017, I had the notion that returning my camera to its bag between shots would keep it warm and operating, but the reality is that after an hour or so, the whole lot including the bag and its contents will be frozen. The only advantage of putting the camera back in its bag would be if its windy, as avoiding wind chill will help.

As for camera gear, at least 2 bodies is essential in these cold climates and preferably carried with lenses fitted. Dropping a camera with cold hands would be very easy and changing lenses with double gloved hands is quite difficult in cold conditions.

I had in mind putting my camera inside my jacket to keep it warm between shots, but to be honest, opening my jacket doesn’t have great appeal at -15C.

My Three Legged Thing Billy tripod has proved both light and rigid enough and has worked in the cold conditions, but having the legs come loose is a constant and annoying battle. I have spoken to 3LT about it and they have sent me some replacement parts, but in my opinion the problem is a fundamental design issue.

However, I’ve had a catastrophe! The sole of my super Olang studded snow boots has come off altogether! Fortunately, I have some  walking shoes with me and I’ve managed to buy some snow grips off one of the group. The snow grips I acquired are “Yaktracks” and whilst they would not be my first choice, they have proved adequate. Though be aware that they will be starting to fall to bits after a week of hard use and mine are now in the bin after a week’s use.

Which leads me to the subject of kit redundancy. Being this remote means any loss of equipment can be a big problem. Gloves for instance are easy to lose, so spares are essential. I only brought along a very thick hat and buff and having a choice of thinner buff and hat would have been a good idea.

Keeping the core body warm isn’t proving a problem and a base layer, mid layer and lined trousers and a jacket is proving adequate at -15C. Though I do have extra layers available should it get colder.

As for gloves, I use thin silk and merino wool glove liners, with thin windproof flip top mittens. This allows me to use the camera and two thin layers are definitely better than one thick layer. For really cold conditions, I also have some ski mittens to slip over the other two pairs of gloves to keep my hands warm whilst walking to a location. However after two weeks use, my Helly Hansen glove liners are worn out and will go in the bin when I get home.

My Trailheads flip top mittens have worked very well and the elasticated material makes  getting them on easy and they don’t seem to have suffered much wear.

The cold eventually creeps into the extremities and hands and toes are often the first to suffer, so “Hot Hands” can be a really good way of keeping the hands warm for several hours at a time. It’s taken me a long while to figure this one out, but the best way to keep your hands warm for an extended period of photographing, is to put the “Hot Hands” into your gloves before you set off, rather than once your fingers are cold.

Why, O why do manufacturers of outdoor clothing fit zips with tiny pullers that are hard to grasp with a bare hand, let alone a double gloved hand? I can understand that the material is thin and the zips will be sized accordingly, but the tiny pull tabs are un-useable with gloved hands. My solution is to fit them with tyrap loops to give me a loop I can grip with a gloved hand.

I caused chaos in the supermarket when it took me 5 minutes to un-zip my pocket to get my wallet out. (No its not because I’m a tight Yorkshireman)

Similarly “snap locks” on tripod straps etc need to be big enough to operate with gloved hands. It would be impossible to operate a small snaplock with gloved hands. Fortunately my Think Tank camera bag has big, robust zips and snaplocks which are ideal.

#nikon #craghoppers #thinktank #hellyhansen #threeleggedthing #trailheads #yaktrax #fuji #olympus #

This entry was posted in Musings.

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