Cold weather affecting film or camera : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello everyone, This is my first year using LF equipment and I am seeking advice on weather related concerns. I live in Western Canada at the foothills of the Rockies and the winters can get quite cold here. (had a blizzard yesterday) Sometimes the temperature dips down into the minus 25 to minus 40 range. I may have opportunities during these cold spells to take some wonderfully clear winter shots. My question is can you advise me of things to watch out for or be careful about during these cold times ? I use a Calumet C400 view camera and a Super Angulon 90 lense. (as well as a 150 & 300 mm). Do I have any concerns with film or film holders ? Thanks in advance.

-- GreyWolf (, November 05, 2000


Joe Englander wrote an article on cold weather photography in the January/February 1996 issue of View Camera, pages 47 - 52. If you can't find a copy, e-mail me and I'll photocopy it for you.

-- Jay Packer (, November 05, 2000.

Yes, i was mountain biking near banff yesterday when the blizzard caught me by surprise (I was in shorts and t-shirt)! One of the main consideration with cold weather photography is the condensation caused by bringing cold equipment into a warm environment . Condensation should be taken seriously as it can permanently damage the lenses. condensation will also affect your film. To avoid this, after shooting out in the cold, put your gear and film holders into a plastic bag, seal it before you get into a warm environment (ie home or car). Once the gear comes to room temperature, you can pull everything out. the other thing that comes to mind, if you have an aluminum tripod, attach a small section of pipe-insulating foam on the legs (where you normally handle the tripod). The foam isn't of any considerable weight and it will insulate your hand from the cold metal. A bag bellows focusing hood with a built in loupe is also usefeul instead of using a conventional darkcloth. This way you do not have to hold your breath when you are focussing on the ground glass. Its annoying when your breath freezes onto the GG. And finally, bring lots of hot chocolate. Good luck.

-- Dave Anton (, November 05, 2000.

Don't forget chemical handwarmers !! Available at most outdoor shops - nothing worse than trying to operate a LF camera with frozen fingers. I use them in Scotland in early spring, so invaluable in Canada !!!! Regards Paul

-- paul owen (, November 05, 2000.

Regarding your breath freezing on the GG:

Although I haven't tried this, an interesting solution occurred to me. Has anyone used a snorkel tube to vent their breath outside the dark cloth? I guess you can't be too self conscious, as this approach may get an odd reaction from some folks. A cheap snorkel tube only costs about $10 vs. big bucks for the bellows viewers.

-- Larry Huppert (, November 05, 2000.


I'm up in Yellwoknife.

A few things to be careful of/tips:

The whole breath on the gg can be a pain, just try and be carful - if it's that cold, you aren't going to have too much time playing around - try holding your breath inder the darkcloth! - really. Anything else is extra fiddling.

Watch out for older leather bellows - can crack. Same with some synthetic bellows, but my Toyo's have worked down to -35c (toyo was helpful with info. Some brands are still okay, but get quite stiff.

I wear a big pair of wolf mitts on strings, with thinner gloves inside - just drop the mits, adjust, pull the mitts back on.

I have had film buckle from the cold, in holders once the darkslide is out. So when I try and put the darklside in, the the film has actually poped out of one guide, then shattered when I put the slide back in - so expect to lose a few sheets at really low temps.

LF shutters are big and hefty in their workings - if the lube is oldish, they can really slow up in the cold. My newer Nikkor 90mm is fine, and older Schneider 210 get sluggish. If you are getting exposures over a second and the sutter is sluggish opening and closing on B, you can always go old fashioned and used the lens cap for the actual time.

My body usually gives up in these temepratures before the equipment.

The foam insualtion on tripods is a great help.

For the condensation thing, just keep a garbage bag in the car or by the door - just put your camera bag inside it, then bring it in and let it warm up slowly at the end of the day. Condensation forms on garbage bag, not the gear. But be careul, if the camera bag is padded, it insulates the gear very well - it can take a few hours warm up. So if you want to work on the film, just put it in a seperate ziploc and it will warm up quicker.

If I remember anything else, I'll pass it on - or e mail mail me if you have questions.

It's already -18c here....

Tim A

-- tim atherton (, November 05, 2000.

Larry, the snorkel idea sounds like a good idea but cold air needs to warm up before it enters the lungs. The snorkel tubes and mouth-piece are quite large and i think it may be uncomfortable to ram sub-zero air down my chest. Then again, the snorkel may make you the fastest GG focuser in the world!

-- Dave Anton (, November 05, 2000.


Would it work to inhale through your nose and exhale through the snorkel tube to the outside? It hasn't gotten cold enough here yet to give this a try.

-- Larry Huppert (, November 06, 2000.

To Larry Huppert, congratulations on a creative marine-photo idea. To make it practical a little more of that creativitywill be needed for designing a focusing cloth that can hold the snorkel up, and when not in use, keep it conveniently accessible while fastened to the same. As for Dave Anton, Dave, I can imagine you as confortablly sipping drinks under the palm trees in a tropical island. Those of use that live in this soon to be frozen, windswept Siberia called Canada know that when temperatures drop to and below -40F, not uncommon even in southern Ontario, -although less now with Global Warming, what you breath in winter is that same cold air that you fear will make you unconfortable if it gets into your lungs. This air will freeze everything in its path, make your nostrils feel they are stuck together, make the ears seem to no longer be there, the toes to ache so much that you in fact have little inclination to think about the groundglass or even your lungs. So there, you do need not worry about the lungs. Recently I saw some beautiful photographs of ice forming around water falls. The lovely, soft color gradations, reflections and shapes around the ice made the images stunning and unusual. We have lots of those falls around the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario. I am wating to tackle the subject but no, it will not be with LF, at least not until I can figure how to use Larry's snorkel. Once I do I will have to figure out how to get around the steep, icy slopes with 30 pounds of equipment. Heck, I think instead I will take a point and shoot camera with the longest lens so I can do it from the car. If all else fails, I will be there too, under the palm tree, where the only ice to be seen is in the drinks!

-- Julio Fernandez (, November 17, 2000.

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