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Thread: -30 Celsius

  1. #1
    Elite Member leuius's Avatar
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    Sep 2014
    Montreal (QC)

    -30 Celsius

    A follow-on to the thread A77 has died by Gramps, considering the weather discussion that ensued, I just wanted to have a place to post information about photography in cold/winter conditions.

    As an introduction, here is a screenshot from the Canadian weather service in Montreal this morning.

    Name:  cold.jpg
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    A windchill factor of -30C or below is definitely not comfortable, especially with high humidity. Still, it is possible to enjoy winter and outside photography. The main thing is to dress warmly, in layers. From a photo perspective, bring warm but not oversized gloves since you won't be able to feel the buttons on the camera and adjust settings. And do bring extra batteries that you will keep close to your body for warmth. You will notice that the cold sucks power out like nothing else.

    Consider setting your operating parameters ahead of time as much as possible. The less fiddling around in the cold, the better. Set your most reachable and adjustable knobs or buttons to functions you will need most.

    With snow (anything overly bright really), your camera will be fooled into wanting to underexpose. You need to compensate. I tend to add +0.7 to +2 EV based on the amount of "white" in the frame. If you also shoot RAW, you will have some room to adjust in post but watch that you don't overexpose. Use your histogram. In manual mode, I set ISO at base (100), set aperture to taste and adjust speed last. In bright conditions, it can happen that your speed will get maxed and you will have to close down your aperture. I avoid having to manipulate filters (such as ND) outside when it's cold; I work with what the camera can give me.

    Don't expect to rely too much on the camera back monitor since the snowy environment is particularly blinding. You would have to set the display brightness to max, which will take even more power, and reflections are always a problem. I prefer to use the viewfinder when possible. Whenever I bring the camera close to my face, I try to breathe downwards to prevent moisture getting on the camera and freezing. Condensation is your constant enemy.

    On that same subject, if you are outside for any length of time, your camera will get very cold. It is particularly important that you avoid condensation on the way indoors. If you take no precaution, humidity from your cozy and warm house will quickly form water on and in your camera and lens. Not a good idea. Instead, bring an hermetic bag with you outside. The last thing you do before getting in is seal your camera in the bag. The indoor air will condensate on the cold bag while the temperature of your equipment gradually equalizes with its surrounding. I have heard but never tried putting the bag in the refrigerator as an intermediate step.

    People will notice that manufacturers don't rate their cameras for extreme cold. While working beyond normal parameters, I have enjoyed cold weather photography for years with no failures. I suspect that the shutter and lens aperture are the most sensitive to the cold. With the aperture mostly fixed, you can use the electronic (silent) shutter to prevent mechanical movement. Electronics working in the cold is not an issue but you have to prevent condensation.

    In closing, here are a few pictures taken yesterday afternoon in -30C conditions. Children can still enjoy time playing in the snow... and high speed photos of snow in the sun can produce interesting effects.

    -30C on Flickr

    Into the wind on Flickr

    Taken with an A6500 with Zeiss 55mm/1.8 lens.

    Stef (leuius is latin for more light)
    Sony A6000 + A6500
    (Native E-mount)
    * Sony: 16-50mm | 16-70mm/4.0 | 55mm/1.8 | 55-210mm * Samyang: 12mm/2.0 * Trioplan 50/2.9
    (Adapted to E-mount from SR | C/Y | AD2 | M42 lenses)
    * Minolta: 24mm/2.8 | 45mm/2.0 | 50mm/1.4/1.7/2.0 | 85mm/2.0 | 135mm/2.8/3.5 | 35-105mm
    * Tamron: 28mm/2.5 | SP 90mm/2.8 macro | SP 35-80mm * Tokina: RMC 500mm/8.0 | ATX 100-300mm/4.0
    * Pentax: 50mm/1.4 * Vivitar Series 1: 70-210mm * Soligor: 85-205mm/3.8

  2. #2
    Elite Member Gramps's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Sunraysia, Australia
    What a good thread and one for some donkey like me to learn from.
    I think I would be walking about in what would look like one of those sumo suits just to keep cold.
    Yes this is honest as I have had to walk out of a supermarket because I was too cold in there.
    I know I would do badly at being in your region, so I think if you can produce shot as shown you are magic.
    Great threat and shots to prove it to. Well done.
    CC is always welcome, the good and the bad. I promise not to take it personal as I know it wasn't meant that way.

    Sony a77 with 18/55mm lens
    Sony DT 2.8/30 Macro
    Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro
    Sony DT 55/200
    Sigma DG 70/300 lens with Macro button

    Tamron 150-600 f5.6-6.3 Di USD

    Plus some Filters

  3. #3
    Elite Member leuius's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Montreal (QC)
    Thanks for the kind words Gramps.

    I think living with the cold is a matter of getting used to it. In autumn, when we get the first freeze, everyone feels it badly because we are not accustomed nor probably dressed warmly enough. After a few days/weeks our internal "thermostats" reset and -10C feels just great. The threshold to cold is not fixed.

    -30C is cold regardless but I was out yesterday walking around and it did not seem as bad as the previous few days. It also helps if you keep moving. One thing to watch out for is if you start feeling your extremities getting "warmer" or tingling is that they are starting to freeze. Time to get inside. If that happens, do NOT put your frozen hands in hot water as you will possibly burn yourself before realizing it. The best is to put your hands underneath your armpits or behind your knees to warm up gradually.

    One thing I forgot to write and am reminded with looking at the last picture when snow was drifting in the wind towards the camera (that's how the "bubble" effect occurred) is that snow will get on your camera. While your camera is cold enough, the snow will not melt but do remember to wipe it off before you put your camera into the bag before going inside. Common sense I guess.

    Happy New Year everyone!


  4. #4
    Elite Member leuius's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Montreal (QC)

    Seeing the heat

    Closing out the year with winter theme pictures.

    When it's cold enough to "see" the heat...

    Winter heat on Flickr

    Taken using A6500 with vintage/adapted Tamron SP 90mm/2.8 (72B) lens at a local street intersection in deep subzero temperature.

    The next one is somewhat conceptual but still very real. No digital manipulation of color, just a contrast enhancement of the out-of-camera image. I wanted to highlight the color difference between cold and hot. I waited for the sun to set, casting a yellow tint from the window while the outside snow was in the shadows, picking up the blue from the sky.

    To set the mood, I let a clear filter outside in the cold. When I took it in, condensation immediately fogged the glass. I had just enough time to put it on the lens and waited for the view to clear a bit. The result is a misty temperature impression between outside and the inside.

    Cold outside, warm inside on Flickr

    Taken using A6500 with Zeiss 16-70mm/4 lens.



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