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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Get Ready For The Cold

Tips, tricks and gear for shooting when the mercury drops

Labels: Gear

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Giottos Q.ball
I use 100-weight stretch liner gloves whenever I can. I also have a pair of custom-made overmitts with a zipper down the side, so I can quickly slip my lightly gloved hands out to take a picture without removing the overmitts. Finally, I snip off the elastic that tightens the wrists on many gloves. As I learned while eating that peanut butter sandwich, even the slightest restriction of circulation has a big effect in winter.

Moleskin Insulation. It’s easier to handle today’s plastic cameras in winter than metal bodies, but cold plastic still bites through thin gloves. Before a long trip, I insulate my cameras by covering the areas I touch with moleskin. Apply the moleskin before going into the cold: Moleskin glue freezes and doesn’t stick. If you want something similar that adheres in the cold, use Spenco’s Adhesive Knit; its medical-quality glue works even at -40° F. My metal thermos and the back of my watch are also upholstered with moleskin.

Giottos Rocket Blower
Hold Your Breath. Shooting in the cold requires breath control. If you breathe when looking through the viewfinder, you’ll fog the eyepiece and LCD screen. When you exhale, exhale downwind.

Store Outside. When winter camping, the air in the tent gets humid from breathing, and it’s always at least 10° F warmer in a tent. To avoid condensation, I leave my gear in the vestibule or outside by the door, in the camera bag. Where I travel, theft isn’t an issue. Polar bears are more interested in the food in my sled than in my camera bag.

White Dust. When it’s very cold, snow doesn’t behave like water. It’s simply white dust, so no need to rub snow off your lens with a cloth or tissue. The warmth of rubbing and even your gloved fingers holding the cloth will melt the snow and cause it to streak. Just carry a soft brush and whisk away the flakes. Always hold your breath when working near the camera.

Hot Air Rising. When screwing on or removing a filter, never hold it from underneath; the warm air from even a gloved hand rises and can frost up a cold filter. Instead, position the camera with the lens pointing up and screw the filter on from above.

Jerry Kobalenko’s latest book is Arctic Eden. Visit www.kobalenko.com.


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