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Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
 

Shooting in extreme cold


Well folks, I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and that you are starting 2008 off happily! Today I received some extremely exciting news (for me): I have been asked to do a writing assignment, with images, on the Ice Hotels in Canada. Now I need some help planning for this trip. My primary camera is a Canon 5D. I have multiple backup batteries and a “quick charger” that runs on D-cell batteries. The temperatures where I will be heading are likely to be well below zero at night and probably in the low single digits during the day. I plan to take every battery I own, plus the quick charger and my plug in charger. I know to keep the batteries in a warm place – most likely the inside zip pocket of my jacket – and to gradually acclimate my lens to the change between extreme cold and warmer environments.

I’ve done a fair amount of work in extreme cold environments and have yet to encounter a serious issue; however, because some of these “hotels” do not have power in the rooms, I am a little concerned about keeping everything operational. I know that several folks here have traveled to places such as the Artic, Antarctica and similar very cold spots. Are there issues that I need to be aware of, beyond what I’ve already mentioned? If anyone has any advice, I’d love to hear it!

Thanks

Irene


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1/2/2008 1:31:44 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Bunch of D cells and some of the chemical reaction shake-up hand warmers.
Who plans which hotels you go to? You can alternate powered and unpowered.
not using the monitor can get you through the stays in the unpowered rooms. And sleep with the batteries in your pocket, or sleeping bag.


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1/2/2008 1:45:35 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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Sharon 's Gallery
  Irene, this Q&A addressed this topic as well, but I don't think there's any additional info that Gregory didn't already tell you. Have fun, gal! You couldn't pay me to stay at one of those places :o). I wouldn't even like to vist one for a few hours LOL.

http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=13874


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1/2/2008 3:17:58 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Thank you, Gregory and Sharon. In November I was in Minnesota, up near the Canadian border and it was very cold – about -10 at night. I learned to use my chemical hand warmers as a tool for keeping my gear warm in the bag. I also kept a warmer in my inside jacket pocket to warm the batteries. The Ice Hotels are somewhat different; they are actually made of ice and the rooms are ice with small heaters of some type (I still have lots of research to do before the job in late February). Most have no electricity and those that do only have it in the common areas. It is all fairly “rough”, but supposedly comfortable – again, I have to get that research done! I am not that concerned about the batteries because I have several and I also have the rapid charger. I keep reading conflicting info on the cold and LCD screens and wonder what anyone here has experienced?

Sharon – I take it that you don’t like cold, huh? I love it! Yes, I know, I’m nuts, but I really do like extreme weather.

Irene


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1/2/2008 3:57:07 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Irene,

I wish you luck. It sounds like.........well, it sounds like.........well, it sounds like.........work! LOL Hope you have fun. Let us know how it turns out. I just read an article in Outdoor Photographer today about a photog near the North Pole, don't remember her name, but, the key was keeping the batteries warm. She said they would, in certain conditions, die in a minute or less. She wore a belt with the batteries in it to keep them warm. Again, good luck and let us know how it turns out.


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1/2/2008 4:22:18 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
Contact Sharon
Sharon 's Gallery
  I can't stand cold, Irene! I'd live in Florida towards the southern end of the state if I could.


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1/2/2008 5:59:48 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  You can ask the front desk to keep you batteries and charger in a safe place.


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1/2/2008 8:47:04 PM

 
W.    Keep your camera inside your jacket/coat too until you're ready to shoot, and after shooting stick it back inside.

When you get back inside, to 'room temperatures' – that is: temperatures a couple dozen degrees above those outside, the moisture inside the camera may condense. You don't want that. It could destroy your camera. To prevent it, stick your camera in a ziplock bag before you go inside, and leave it in that ziplock bag for 3/4 hours minimum, so that the temperature inside the bag can slowly, gradually, get equalized with the room temperature.

Have fun, Irene!


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1/2/2008 9:07:16 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Well folks, this morning the info for this assignment arrived via Fed Ex and from what I have managed to review over the past couple of hours shows me that this trip is going to be a true challenge! These ice hotels are all rather primitive – at least in terms of modern conveniences such as electricity, etc. In all but one of the hotels there is no electricity in the rooms and, in fact, little power even in the common areas. The outside temperature ranges from about -20 day to about -30 at night. The indoor temps are kept at around 25 f. Because of the risk that condensation causes, visitors are advised not to take anything other than essentials into their rooms. These “rooms” are actually just small curtain enclosed areas containing an ice bed covered with heavy fur and leather to insulate against the cold and a sleeping bag rated to artic specs. Each guest is provided with battery powered lamps for their room. Guests are assigned a small locker, in a common area, for their belongings. There are no locks for the rooms or for the belonging lockers.

I’ve done a fair amount of work in extreme cold; however, in previous cases I always had access to a warm space in which to store my equipment and repower batteries. In the past I’ve placed camera and lens into a large zippered bag when coming from the cold into the heat or vice-versa. I am worried about the condensation that seems to be such an issue in these places. At first glance the difference in outside and inside temp does not seem that great, but it is actually fairly big: -30 and 25 is about 50 degrees. I can certainly keep the camera and batteries in my sleeping bag; however, I am worried about the rest of my gear and how I am going to keep everything safe from theft, damage and the cold. Todd, I also read that article and found some good info, but at least she had a way to get out of the cold. One thing that I hope will work in my favor is that I will be driving to all but one of these hotels. I have a neat emergency car battery charger that also has outlets for charging phones, etc. My battery powered rapid charger does charge my camera battery in about 30mins, but the battery does not hold the charge as well as when it is charged by a true wall outlet. I’m hoping that the car battery charger will give a better, longer lasting charge. I’m thinking of locking my gear in my car. I would wrap the gear in my down sleeping bag, along with some chemical warming bags. This might be safer than bringing it into the hotel.

Thanks for all the advice and I’ll probably ask a few more questions before I head out in February.

Irene


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1/3/2008 8:10:43 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  You can keep what you take to a minimum of two lenses. A 28-70 sounds like a good choice since you have a full frame camera. And one telephoto. Silica packs.
Really serious photo and cinema nature people have to camp out sometimes when they work in the winter. So staying in the cold may not be the risk of condensation, but coming from your car to the ice hotel.
I guess you can keep everything in air tight bags with silica packs all the time. Maybe also do that a day or two before you leave.


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1/3/2008 9:38:22 AM

 
W.   
Small wonder they need that PR write-up so badly....


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1/3/2008 10:51:10 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  I think it's one of those boutique kinda places.
How do you take a shower there?


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1/3/2008 10:54:09 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Very quickly!


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1/3/2008 11:05:42 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  If you're too long in a hot shower, does that mean you run the risk of burning the place down?


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1/3/2008 11:35:39 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Greg, I had to pick myself up off the floor after that one.


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1/3/2008 11:39:53 AM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi All and once again, thanks to those who answered my original question. I thought that I would update this topic and explain a little about this situation. These ice hotels have been around for awhile, about twenty years, I believe. The original concept began in Finland and quickly spread to Sweden and Norway. Then about ten years ago the first hotel opened in Canada. There are now seven such hotels throughout Eastern Canada and two in Western Canada. The term “boutique” could certainly apply, both in terms of cost (the average overnight stay is about $300 and includes dinner and a breakfast buffet in most places) and appeal. After reviewing the info that I have been sent, I am not sure that this would be my choice of a vacation spot. I love cold weather and have enjoyed winter camping in Montana, Colorado and Wyoming. But, when camping I had control over the environment of the tent and campsite. At these hotels the guest has little control or choice about either activity or sleeping arrangement. It will be interesting to actually visit the various places and get a first hand experience.

For Gregory: there are no showers (yet another oddity) so I guess steam is not an issue!

W: yeah, I think I agree – although, somewhat surprisingly, all but one of the places I am to visit, have filled all available rooms for the season. Perhaps because these places are such novelties, some people just want to say that they once visited. Of-course, considering the cost, I am sure that their potential cliental is limited.

My current thoughts about my equipment is to place all batteries in the standard insulted bag with a chemical hand warmer that I will switch out at least once a day. I am not sure how much cold will affect lens behavior, but other than helping the lens acclimate slowly to changes in temps, there is probably not much I can do. Concerning the security of my equipment; I plan to lock everything into my car. I have done this in the past and have used a lock box that I can then stow under the floor hatch in my Honda Element. Nothing is then visible through a window and someone would have to do some rummaging to find the equipment. I feel more comfortable doing this than in leaving the equipment in an unlocked common area.

Anyway, I’ll let you folks know how this goes in February. Thanks, again, for the help.

Irene


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1/7/2008 10:38:12 AM

 
W.   
Are you DRIVING there, Irene?
Where are you going anyway? And where are you now?


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1/7/2008 12:11:31 PM

 
Pat Harry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/26/2006
  "Small wonder they need that PR write-up so badly...."

Ha ha!!!! I have to agree. Irene, it sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, though. And once will probably be plenty! I'd love to see the place, but not sure I'd like to actually stay there.


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1/7/2008 12:21:57 PM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  Yeah Irene, I have to admit, sleeping in an ice hotel is not at the top of my list of things to do. Heck, it's not even on my list of things to do; but, doing what you are doing would be an adventure which I might like. Good luck and hope it turns out well.


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1/7/2008 12:57:11 PM

 
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