The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Monday, February 05, 2007


Morning Steam (Minneapolis on the morning of Feb. 4)
Photo by
Hoainam Tran (a.k.a. charcoal heather)

When I woke up at 5:30 this morning, the thermometer on the side of the house read an impressive –28°C (that's –18°F). One thing that occurred to me was that I could grab the camera and head out and see how long it would keep taking pictures before something in it got too cold and it stopped working. But then I really weighed the two competing alternatives—on one hand, warm office, hot coffee, sheepskin slippers, dog curled at my feet; frigid arctic air, swirling wind, boots, hat, gloves, and parka and a frozen camera on the other.

I must be getting old, but I decided I wasn't that curious. Besides, it's not even 8 a.m. yet, and the outdoor temperature has already warmed up to –25°C.


Featured Comment by hydropneumatic: Where I live, in northern Sweden, it's often below –25°C. Since those super cold days usually bring fantastic light and wonderful landscapes, I often bring my KM5D out for long shoots. The camera works just fine, but some lenses won't do AF reliably after a while. Probably an issue of stiffened grease or barrel contraction, but MF is no problem. Also, battery life is abysmal at those temperatures.

One thing to think about, for those of us without sealed cameras, is that moisture condensation can cause quite a mess once you get indoors. I solve it by putting the gear inside a plastic bag (while still outdoors) and carefully sealing it before going indoors. Once the camera is warmed up to room temperature, it is safe to open the bag.


Blogger thechrisproject said...

It was so cold this morning. I usually ride my bike to work, even in the winter, but I learned last year that my limit is -5F. My car barely started this morning.

I hope it warms up for the polar plunge.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

One additional benefit of stupidly cold weather, Mike: lower noise at higher ISO's. Of course, this comes at the sacrifice of any kind of predictable battery life. However, I just bring an extra set of batteries, keep them in a pocket to keep them somewhat warm and rotate the two sets as necessary to keep shooting.

8:58 AM  
Blogger MJFerron said...

I moved from Central Maine to Central Texas to to avoid cold like that. Will be 65 here today and my thoughts will be with you "yankees" today as I help my wife with her garden while soaking up the sun. :0

9:17 AM  
Blogger charcoal heather said...

Well, I can vouch for the Canon 20D working in -4 degrees farenheit. I took some photos of Minneapolis that you can see here:

My layers consisted of a t-shirt, a zip-up cardigan, a wool turtleneck, longjohns, jeans, coat, one pair of socks, and my trusty Columbia boots. The only part of me that was really cold was my hands. I need to get better gloves.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

See, that's why I like Nothern Western Europe. The Gulf Stream keeps us cozy in the winter.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Charcoal Heather,
Would you mind if I posted one of your pictures on the blog? I was thinking of "Morning Steam."


9:32 AM  
Blogger charcoal heather said...

Post away, Mike. I consider it a compliment. Thanks!

10:01 AM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

It was -26 C overnight here in Ottawa. They estimated about -40 C (-40 F)with windchill. That gives you about ten minutes before exposed skin freezes. Two minutes before it hurts though.

I read a book by a guy who described "making water" outdoors in the Yukon at -60 C. He claimed it turned to ice before hitting the snow. I haven't had the chance to run my own tests.

I grew up in Montreal, now live in Ottawa, and have lived with cold my whole life. Winter is great. It kills off insects and street gangs. Five a.m. on cold winter mornings is a great time to do urban shooting. There's NOBODY else around, the wimps.

10:50 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Hey guys -- I usually keep my gear (Canon XTi, 18-85 IS lens, extra batteries and memory) in my car, for easy access when I want to shoot something. However, since we (finally) got snow in the northeast, I've been bringing it inside whenever the weather drops below freezing.

Is this necessary?

11:27 AM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

"I read a book by a guy who described "making water" outdoors in the Yukon at -60 C. He claimed it turned to ice before hitting the snow. I haven't had the chance to run my own tests."

Jack London writes in some of his stories about spitting and hearing the crackle of the spit freezing before it hits the ground.

Sitting here in San Francisco, having forgone the Super bowl yesterday in exchange for a walk along the calm beach in 62 degree weather with my wife and 5-year old boy at the Point Pinole shoreline, I have not had a chance to try this yet.

Anyone care to report if it works at -18F or maybe -40F. ;-)

2:20 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home