Using SLRs in cold weather

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edkwon sparked a discussion about SLRs in cold weather. I have a some experience with this, shooting in winter in south-central Canada (think -30 degrees Celsius... before the windchill), so I figured I'd write a quick tutorial on it.

This tutorial includes only information about technique and chemistry; dressing warmly, exposure and what-not is up to you (tip: overexpose by about a stop for snow).

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1. Bring spare batteries and keep them warm in an inside coat pocket; they won't last long in the camera, so you will need to swap them regularly.

2. Be patient. Your LCD screen(s) will slow down and appear to cross-fade instead of cut. The controls will be clumsy, but not impossible, to operate with thick, heavy gloves.

3. Hold your breath to compose through the viewfinder, to take a shot and to change lenses (you really don't want your breath condensing inside the mirror box). I know that this goes against some recommended techniques, but it's vital to prevent the moisture in your breath from fogging up and quickly freezing onto the viewfinder and LCD screen.

4. After your outing, you must let your gear slowly acclimate to prevent the moist air condensing onto the cool surfaces. Place it all in a zippered camera bag before stepping inside and leave it there for several hours before taking it out.

If you're really paranoid or need to acclimate your gear more quickly (ie.: if you need to use it inside), place your gear in ziplock bags instead (again, before going inside). Place the bag(s) by a furnace vent or use the "cool" setting on a hair dryer (the normal "hot" setting may cause it to acclimate too quickly and cause damage due to the varying rates of expansion for the different components and materials in a camera; this is an unproven theory of mine, but I wouldn't want to test it ;))

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That's really all there is to it. I don't think I need to tell you how to dress warmly, either; if you live in a cold environment, you already know how.



Cheers! ^_^
 
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darkshark0159

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+1, I came here thinking, ooooooh, I wonder if he did a really good job photographing the essence of a beautiful car in winter... wait wtf? Oh snap, I'm too tired to make the connection. :lol:
 
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Ramseus

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:thumbup: that's about all there is too it. Keep an extra battery warm in a pocket, swap when the battery in camera freezes. Breathing on stuff = condensation/frost = bad. Breathing on your viewfinder is about the worst thing you can do. The condensation on cameras coming inside thing is really not a big deal, lots of people just get over protective and err waaaay on the side of caution, condensation is 99% likely not going to damage your camera unless you like leave it lying around face up without a lens on it.
 

ALXBWSCREW

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A main point you forgot to mention is ISO performance. I know this from several astro photographers who used to artificially chill their cameras in order to get better results (eg. avoid start trails in a shot but with the stars clearly visible). Because of the low temperatures the sensor will remain cool even at high ISO's so the noise levels will drop dramatically.
 

Dr_Q

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I'm not sure if that's entirely correct about the astro photographers. They do indeed cool huge CCD sensors (with liquid nitrogen I believe) but this is only because those sensors get so hot. As far as I'm aware the only thing that can truly make your sensor raise in temperature is long exposures.
 

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A main point you forgot to mention is ISO performance. I know this from several astro photographers who used to artificially chill their cameras in order to get better results (eg. avoid start trails in a shot but with the stars clearly visible). Because of the low temperatures the sensor will remain cool even at high ISO's so the noise levels will drop dramatically.
I didn't forget; I said that this was about technique only.

High-ISO noise is not reduced, but long-exposure noise is :)



100% crop of some stars on the left from the unprocessed original:



A D40 shouldn't be this clean for a 3 & 1/2 minute exposure!
 
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