Photo tips for Antarctica?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Kulvinder Singh Matharu, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Hi All,

    Just booked to go to cruising + zodiac landings to Antarctica (South
    Shetlands, Peninsular, etc) next month.

    I'm a Canon EOS 30D user and have the following lenses:

    16-35mm f2.8 L USM

    28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM

    70-200m f2.8 L USM

    70-300m f4-5.6 IS USM

    I'll probably take all lenses except for the 70-200m f2.8 (too

    Do you have tips/recommendations for any particular equipment that
    would be useful (filters, tripods, plastic bags, clothing, remote
    control, don't take a lens, etc), and also if there are any special
    photography techniques for the Antarctic that I need to pay
    particular attention to?

    Also, due to the large investment already made for the trip, would an
    additional comparatively small outlay on a Canon 40D be wise
    especially in terms of having a spare camera in case the other fails?

    Thanks in advance!


    Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Website :
    Contact :

    Brain! Brain! What is brain?!
    Kulvinder Singh Matharu, Nov 2, 2007
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  2. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    Two cameras is good. Extra batteries are a must -- they die faster in
    the cold. Polarizing filters for all of the lenses would be a good
    idea. Star filters might also be nice. Tripod and QRs for everything
    might also be good so you're not shaking from the cold -- or at least
    a monopod.

    Get a pair of mittens with an finger-opening on the palm and a pair of
    inner gloves -- such as hunters wear, so you can stick your fingertips
    out when you need to, but have mittens on the rest of the time.
    Pat, Nov 2, 2007
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  3. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Craig Guest

    All good ideas. I'd also recommend a remote shutter release (Canon
    TC80N3 or chinese clone available on ebay for about $70 + $20
    shipping). This way you can keep your hands in your pockets if need be
    and still get a shot without shaking the camera.

    Craig, Nov 2, 2007
  4. Ditch the DSLR kits entirely. Get a high-quality super-zoom P&S camera, or two,
    that can easily fit in a pocket next to your body. One favorite main camera, one
    for backup. Unless you find a way to strap all your DSLR cameras + lenses next
    to your body or put them in heated bags you're going to run into troubles. All
    the mechanical linkage in the cameras' shutters, mirrors, and the lenses'
    diaphragms will be ready to freeze-up the first time they get cold enough.
    Caused by the most minor of condensation from residual humidity inside of them.
    Or more commonly, they become sluggish and cause errors in exposures and
    anything else that slower reaction times can cause from their
    lubricant-dependent mechanical linkages. I frequently take photos in sub-arctic
    conditions every year. Going out for 5 or more hours in -30 to -40 C. air
    temperatures (-65 C. wind-chills or more) is not uncommon for me. Keep in mind
    that liquid mercury turns into a solid metal at -38 C, food is flash-frozen at
    -28 C. to help keep things in perspective. The number of times that DSLR
    equipment has failed due to cold made me give up on them completely. With a good
    P&S camera all of its electronics and its batteries are kept nice and warm in a
    pocket next to your body, there's also few to no mechanical parts that can be
    affected by the cold. Taking the camera out of a pocket only long enough to take
    some images then put it back where it is warm until the next time you need it.
    Keep several backup sets of batteries in some other pockets next to your body
    Joell Jorgensen, Nov 2, 2007
  5. Isn't this a bit extreme for a cruise with occasional Zodiac landings? I
    mean the part about ditching the SLRs altogether. The P+S is great for
    the on shore excursions, but I doubt he'll encounter the length and
    breadth of the conditions you, Joell, encounter.

    Anyway, bon voyage, and do post pix when you get back!
    John McWilliams, Nov 2, 2007
  6. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    Absolutely, positively don't do this!

    You want you camera, whether P&S or dSLR to be at ambient air temp for
    a number of reasons.

    First, if you camera is a big heat source, the heat will distort

    Second, and more importantly, taking the camera in and out of heat
    will cause condensation in all kinds of places you don't want it and
    may freeze your camera into on big block of ice. Think of what
    happened to glasses when you want indoors in the winter. You want in
    and out and in and out and the condensation will start freezing.
    Putting it in and out of your coat is a recipe for disaster.

    But the poster raises a good point. It wouldn't hurt to carry a zip-
    lock bag (self-sealing plastic bag if you're not in the US) with you
    so you can put your camera inside it before you go inside. Then any
    condensation will be on the bag, not the camera. Once it warms up,
    you can take it out of the bag.
    Pat, Nov 2, 2007
  7. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Eatmorepies Guest

    Take it - or get a 70-200 f4 IS L. It's too good a lens to leave behind.

    Eatmorepies, Nov 2, 2007
  8. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    TH O Guest

    As one recent Antarctic expedition learned, don't expect weatherproof
    Canon equipment to survive mist, drizzle, and moisture. Use umbrellas,
    covers, and whatever else it takes to protect the equipment.
    TH O, Nov 2, 2007
  9. ONLY if you start out with your camera at ambient air temperature. If you
    started out at ambient air-temp with your camera in arctic conditions it
    wouldn't even work due to the batteries, mechanics, and other electronics being
    unable to perform.

    You've obviously never used a camera under extreme weather conditions and are
    only offering you foolish advice from what you only think should work, but would
    cause nothing but problems for those under real circumstances.
    WRONG. This is only true if there is a huge air-mass if differing air-temps
    between you and your subject. The heat rising from the top of your camera will
    have zero effect on the scene in front of the camera. This is the same reason
    that people with refractor telescopes don't have to wait for their optics to
    reach ambient air-temps, because of the sealed optics assembly. The converse is
    not true in a reflecting telescope design, where the warmth from the massive
    mirror at the base of an open tube can induce air currents into the light path
    of the subject you are imaging.

    (I so hate having to waste my time correct the obvious errors of the ignorant
    and foolish with a keyboard, those that are only arm-chair photographers that
    know nothing about reality, only virtual reality.)
    WRONG. The only time condensation happens is when the surface is COOLER than the
    ambient air-temperatures, and only then when the temperature of that surface is
    below the dew-point of the surrounding air. Taking the camera out of your pocket
    just long enough to take a photo or photos will not allow the camera to cool
    down sufficiently to cause condensation when putting it back in your pocket.

    It's obvious you've never done this and have zero experience with this. You are
    only aping words you've read by some other moron online somewhere. Please
    refrain from offering your foolish advice so you aren't wasting the time of
    people like me who have to correct your annoying ignorance and misinformation.
    At last, you finally make one important point. The best situation of all is to
    enclose your camera in a harsh-environment cover BEFORE taking it outside, BUT
    making sure you trap some of the COLD less humid air inside of the bag just as
    you venture out. Then keeping the camera warm while surrounded by the dryer air
    (that you trapped from the outside air) will have no effect. If you forget to do
    this then make sure you trap some of that cold dry air inside the bag BEFORE you
    bring it inside to warm up again.

    Rule 1 is to always keep the dryer air to the camera side, no matter its

    Rule 2 is to always keep the camera warmer (above the dew-point) than the
    ambient air so any humidity in that air can't condense on its surfaces.

    Rule #3, someone please shoot idiots, like Pat, that reply to posts where I have
    to then waste another 15 minutes of my time trying to REcorrect all their
    amazing stupidity and BAD information.
    Joell Jorgensen, Nov 2, 2007
  10. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Sparky Guest

    good luck
    Sparky, Nov 2, 2007
  11. Stay Warm
    Have Fun
    Take Photos

    In that order. :)
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 2, 2007
  12. Everyone should be aware that this is the infamous P&S troll
    who has been haunting these newsgroups. It constantly changes
    its name. The headers and its style of insults give it away.
    It is best to ignore it.
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Nov 3, 2007
  13. Your 70-200 f/2.8 L is a better lens than the 70-300.
    Is the 70-200 IS?

    Regarding cold, the idea of putting equipment in waterproof
    bags, like zip lock bags is good, but the idea of putting
    air, dry or otherwise is not a good idea. It is best to
    minimize air, as any air can include moisture. Air has
    minimal insulating properties and the bag will do more
    than the air. I work with materials at cryogenic temperatures
    (temps below -200 C) every week, and build my own environment
    chambers. Antarctica is on my list of places to go.
    Do take a backup camera. The other problem not mentioned,
    which is more serious than moisture is the lubricants
    in the camera and lenses. They can freeze up. Another issue
    not yet mentioned is the LCD freezes, so you might lose
    any LCD views if the camera gets too cold. You might check
    a photo repair shop about winterizing your gear. They remove
    lubricants but that increases wear, so when you get back,
    you might want your gear re-lubricated.
    Have fun and let us know how the trip goes.

    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Nov 3, 2007
  14. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    I hadn't thought about the LCD issue, but you're right. I've been in
    cold enough situation where the LCD on watches and stuff
    "disappeared". I would assume the same would apply to cameras. I
    haven't shot much in temps under -10F lately, and things worked okay
    at that temp.

    Another thing to consider would be brittleness. The OP should look
    for anything that would be sticks out, etc. and could be easily broken
    at those low temps.

    They used to make an item for batteries where you taped the battery in
    your armpit and ran a wire to the camera. It kept the battery warm.
    Do they still make something like that? I haven't seen one in years
    but it would be helpful.
    Pat, Nov 3, 2007
  15. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    I was going to respond, point by point but I think I'll take your
    advice, instead, and ignore him/her. The OP can decide what advice to
    follow, if any.
    Pat, Nov 3, 2007
  16. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Marty Fremen Guest

    Whether that's true or not I don't know, but his advice here was on the
    mark, I think anyone who's done winter mountaineering would agree it's best
    to keep your camera warm, preferably inside your jacket. Cameras don't like
    subzero temperatures, especially for extended periods, and as he says,
    bringing a freezing cold camera into a warm environment is a much bigger
    problem than briefly exposing a warm camera to the cold air. This doesn't
    totally count out using an SLR, but it's obviously easier to stick a
    compact camera inside your jacket, though I've done both over the years
    (though only with a wideangle prime lens on the SLR, the modern "zooms with
    everything" approach to SLR lenses would be more of a problem).
    Marty Fremen, Nov 3, 2007
  17. If it is cold enough to require that, he *absolutely*
    will want to be dressed in a parka that is in fact large
    enough to tuck a DSLR inside, which will easily keep it
    warm enough. If the parka is not large enough, then it
    should be traded for one that is, because it's dangerous
    to wear an ill fitting parka.
    Long before any linkage freezes up the batteries will
    refuse to provide enough power (even if fully charged)
    to operate the camera.

    Hence except for cameras running on external batteries,
    there is no need to even begin considering mechanical
    You missed the single most essential item though!

    Plastic garbage sacks. Any time a camera or lense is
    taken from a cold location to a warm locations it is
    essential that it be wrapped up in a water proof
    container and allowed to reach a temperature well above
    the dew point *before* it is exposed to warm moist air.
    That applies to taking a camera from outside at -2C into
    any normally heated building, such as a home. The
    camera should be stuffed into a plastic bag and kept
    there until it warms up.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  18. Well, don't do about half of it... :)
    Oh? Can you explain that in more detail, as I can't figure out
    what you mean.
    You are almost right in what you say above. What is
    missing is that it is *not* the heat which is the
    problem, but the moisture content of the air. Hence, it
    is a bad idea to bring a camera into a warm house,
    because almost invariably there is a very significant
    amount of moisture in the warm air inside the house.

    However, not all warm places necessarily have moisture.
    If the outside (dry) air is heated _without_ adding
    moisture, then it simply is not a problem.

    There are at least two times that a person might
    encounter such conditions. One is a vehicle. If it is
    full of people, and has been warm for a couple hours or
    more, then it might well have a lot of moisture (look at
    the windows to see!). But if there are only one or two
    people in it, and if it was just now warmed up, it will
    *not* be loaded with moisture. (If the windows aren't
    getting "steamed", neither will a camera.)

    The other place where one most likely (but not always)
    will *not* see moist air just because it is warm... is
    inside their own coat. If you aren't out running and
    sweating, it will not be moist.
    It's the best way to go, and in no way is it a recipe
    for disaster.
    Ziplock bags are okay, but they are best for stowing
    lenses and other small items in. The best solution is a
    roll of garbage bags. The "Tall Kitchen" bags are
    great, though even a grocery bag (or two) will do
    nicely. It doesn't have to be air tight, it just has to
    keep the outside air off the camera. So an open ended
    bag that is simply wrapped around the camera and then
    left in one place or an hour or two is a great plenty.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  19. I wasn't much impressed with what either of you had to
    say, so I'm not inclined to advise the OP to believe
    either of you.
    The fact is that what he said was correct. You didn't
    read it well.

    If you go inside and condensate forms, and then you go
    outside... it freezes. You'll endup with not just
    fogged glasses, but glasses with ice on them.

    His mistake, which you seem to have entirely missed, is
    that the above happens when you go into and out of a
    nice warm *moist* house... but inside your coat is
    usually not a moist place, because all of the air inside
    your coat was cold to start with and has no moisture
    content. Unless you are doing serious physical
    excercise and sweating profusely, there is no danger in
    taking a camera into and then out of a coat repeatedly.
    What are you talking about?
    But that wasn't accomplished by what you described
    Exactly. But of course that is only necessary if there
    actually is some moisture in the air, and the camera is
    significantly colder than the air. If you are outside
    in a cool climate, it simply is not a problem *until* you
    go inside of a warm moist house.

    Give *no* thought to any "harsh-environment cover",
    whatever that is, on the way *out* the door! At least not
    other than by making sure you will have something handy when
    you come back and want to go inside... because that's when
    it is needed.
    He wasn't 100% correct, but he did better than you!

    Now, tell me... just how many times have you actually
    *seen* that -65C windchill you mentioned????
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  20. Wrong reasons though.

    First, air is an _extremely_ good insulator. Virtually
    *every* good form of insulation we use in clothing
    amounts to a material that will trap and hold *air*.

    The problem with air in the bag is *not* the moisture it
    might hold. If you are outside in cool air, the
    moisture content, no matter how great or small, will not
    be a problem when the air is *warmed* once inside a
    building. The air can hold *more* water when warmed,
    and hence it will *not* cause condensation.

    The problem with air in the bad when you go inside is
    that it is indeed a good insulator, and the more air in
    the bag the longer it will take to warm up the camera.
    If you squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag
    before going inside it will reduce the time required
    before the camera can be taken out of the bag. The one
    thing to watch for is that you don't want to somehow
    handle the bag in such a way that air is allowed to
    enter it... as that would be the nice warm moist air
    which will cool on contact and cause condensation.

    Squeeze the air out of the bag, bring it inside, and set
    the thing in a warm spot where it will not be disturbed
    in any way. Wait for it to warm to well above 32F (0C)
    before removing from the bag.
    Not much of a problem for most users, simply because the
    battery will not provide a charge long before that
    happens. If the camera is operated from an external
    battery pack that is kept warm, then yes that is a
    consideration. Otherwise, not.
    Years ago it would destroy some of the LCD displays to
    even get that cold. I doubt that any of them will
    suffer that today though. But even then you can be
    almost 100% assured that the battery will quit before
    the LCD does.
    Do *not* do that! If you have an all mechanical camera,
    yes. If you have one operated via a battery pack that
    will be kept warm, yes. In other words, for some (but
    not all) professional photographers it is something that
    might make sense. For typical battery operated cameras
    used by amateur photographers, no.

    Keep in mind that the OP said he is traveling by ship,
    with excursions via a Zodiac... He is *not* going
    someplace where cold weather is anything near of a

    His problem is going to be moisture that falls from
    those white things in the sky! Rain, mist and snow, and
    probably a bit of spray from the boat.

    He does *not* need to know about heating cameras! He
    needs to learn about keeping a camera *dry* in a wet

    Canon's do not have a good reputation...
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
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