Guide Shack: Shooting In Cold Environments
Categories: Guide News
I spent over a decade working as a mountain guide and many days I found myself working in very cold environments, often for weeks at a time. I carried my camera on all of these trips. One of the coldest places I worked was on Denali in Alaska while working for RMI. During those expeditions, climbers often had questions about using cameras in these cold environments. Here are a few tips that I shared with them:
1. Keep multiple batteries available. Keep them close to your body. Sleep with them. If you’re not going to be using your camera for long periods of time take the battery out so that it stays warm and it’s ready to go.
2. Remember that if you bring your cold camera into a warm room that condensation will rapidly fog the glass in your lens. I have found that if I bring my camera into my tent its usually not enough of a temperature gradient to cause condensation.
3. The solar kits these days are very affordable, compact, light and you would be surprised at how much charge they will provide even if it’s snowing. Check out the Goal Zero kits, they will have whatever you could possibly need.
4. Camera technology changes rapidly. One major advantage of the new technology is the size of the cameras available these days offer very high performance while being slightly bigger than your iPhone. A couple of cameras that I have had success with for a pretty good dollar value are the Sony RX-100 and the Canon s100. They are sleek cameras that will fit in your pocket comfortably. Of course one thing to consider in the colder environments is that using the LCD screen will use more battery juice. Having a viewfinder like the Nikon Coolpix 7800 will provide longer battery life.
5. Keep your camera handy. The more accessible your camera is, the more images you will capture. I typically will carry my camera clipped to my backpack shoulder strap about chest height and tether it to a small locking carabiner. That way even if I drop it I will not lose it.
6. Safety first. Mountaineering is a team sport. You’re tied in with other people. Just because you see a picture that you have to take right then don’t forget that it’s your responsibility to make sure its safe to capture that picture. Communicate with your teammates.
7. Shoot details. Shoot unique angles. Shoot to tell the story. Simply, just dropping to a knee for a different angle will improve your image.
8. IPhones make amazing images. I just recently picked up this iPhone case and modified it by drilling 2 small holes in the side of the case and installed a short tether.
9. My light and fast alpine style camera kit includes the Sony DSC-RX100, Joby Gorilla pod (be gentle with these in really cold environments as they can be fragile), a Hahnel Giga T Pro II Wireless Remote, Sandisk 32GB SD card x2, 1 ziplock bag, 1 dust cloth for the lens and the Lowpro Portland 30 case. This comes in at about just over 3lbs.
Jason Thompson is a Senior Guide at RMI Expeditions and a renowned photographer. He has traveled the world to places such as Alaska, Patagonia, and the Caucasus Mountains leading climbs and documenting mountain adventures through his camera lens. See his work on www.jthompsonphotography.com. Jason’s recent videos include the 2013 Reel // Artist Statement and Wrangelled, which was nominated for a Coldsmoke Award. Follow Jason on Instagram at @_jt_photo.
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