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11-17-2012, 10:16 AM   #1
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Arctic photography.

Hi,

I am going on a 5 week arctic expedition in March and need some advice on what lenses to take. I will be constantly outside for the whole 5 weeks and so all my lenses need to be able to withstand the cold. Lowest temperatures could be around -45C and an average of -20C.

The bulk of the photography will be landscapes and then a smaller amount of portraits/action shots.

I will be taking 2 K5 bodies and have enough room for 3 or 4 lenses. Weight is an issue as I will be moving up to 20 miles a day. All the lenses would need to be WR and be able to be take a knock or two although I am hoping to avoid this of course.

I am looking at the following lenses.

Pentax DA* 16-50MM F2.8 - this would be my main work horse lens for landscapes etc.

Pentax DA 50-200MM F4.0-5.6 ED WR to capture some wildlife/ close ups on glaciers when it's too dangerous to get up close.

Rokinon 8mm F3.5 Fisheye

Pentax DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR (as a back up to the main 16-50mm)

Has anyone used any of these lenses for an extended period in sub zero temperatures? Can anyone think of any alternatives to these lenses?

Any help would be very much appreciated.

Kind regards,

Liam.

11-17-2012, 10:33 AM   #2
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I'm curious... why wr lenses? the wr seals may not help much in the cold.... great for wet, but snow and ice? I'm not so sure...
I'd be more inclined to have a couple bodies with primes attached and focus manually...
11-17-2012, 10:37 AM   #3
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Although not one of your original questions - batteries. You will need several (at least), and at the low temperatures they will drain faster than normal. Recharging may be a problem depending on your mode of transport. The Pentax OEM may be the longest lasting, but at 6 hours per recharge you will need several per camera. It also depends on how many frames you burn off per day per camera.

11-17-2012, 10:40 AM   #4
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Hi D0n,

I would need WR due to the high wind speeds I will probably encounter when shooting as spindrift/snow can find its way into the camera. Also most of my photography is mountaineering/adventure photography so it will be needed for this as well where water sand etc will be more prevalent. Manual focus won't really be possible with a big pair of gloves on i'm afraid due to temperatures.

Thanks for the reply.

11-17-2012, 10:50 AM   #5
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interested_observer,

I currently have 8 1860mAh li-ion batteries and will be getting another 10. I will be skiing and so charging will be done via solar panel during the day. i will probably be taking between 50-100 shots per day depending on area, weather and light.
11-17-2012, 11:00 AM   #6
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Battery life will definitely be a concern. Where I live our winters routinely go below -30c and with windchill even below -50c. I will be very honest, when it gets that cold I'm inside in front of the fire. My experience has been when its, ahem, a little warmer @ -15c to -20c and you definitely get less from your batteries at lower temps. When they are charged keeping them as close to your body yet accessible will help them hold their charge, but of course once in your cameras they will not be kept warm. I have shot manual in winter so it's not impossible, but you are right it isn't as easy with gloves.
11-17-2012, 11:07 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Liamw Quote
Hi D0n,

I would need WR due to the high wind speeds I will probably encounter when shooting as spindrift/snow can find its way into the camera. Also most of my photography is mountaineering/adventure photography so it will be needed for this as well where water sand etc will be more prevalent. Manual focus won't really be possible with a big pair of gloves on i'm afraid due to temperatures.

Thanks for the reply.
my experience in arctic shooting is this... af fails. motordrives may fail, or tear film apart... or induce static spark light streaks on film.. film breaks... batteries die.
my experience was to use a k1000, sunny sixteen rule, wide angle m lenses set to hyperfocal distances and smaller aperture for DOF...

when using telephotos... zooms freeze up and jam. anything lubed will freeze up.... this includes shutters and lens apertures, so have all lube removed and replaced with something that won't freeze if possible....

uv filters for lenses.... and wear two pairs of gloves, pull the heavy ones off for shooting..


when I switched to digital for outdoor shooting here in Manitoba winter conditions... I found wearing an oversized outer jacket (ovre a lighter innner jacket) and keeping the camera warm inside it worked best... pull the camera out shoot and put it away again worked best... prevent it from freezing, even tape chenical hand warmers to the camera if possible..

I do not know if weather seals will become brittle and fail when cold, but if you keep the camera warm should not be an issue...


and applies to digital and film:
place your cameras in plastic freezer bags before bringing from outside cold to warm moist air inside and let the gear acclimatize or you'll get condensation in it...
11-17-2012, 11:41 AM   #8
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At Arctic winter temps you will need a parka to stay alive. I imagine keeping the camera inside the parka would be the best method to maintain some useful battery life. Mind you, our Canadian Arctic hasn't really cooled down much yet. A woman from Iqaluit was interviewed on the radio the other day and ice has not even started to form on the water there. Maybe it won't be that cold up there after all.

Jack

11-17-2012, 11:42 AM   #9
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The cameras will not be able to be kept warm at all times due to my skiing and needing to have a rifle on my back at all times plus i will have a harness on so it will interfere with this, most of my DSLR shooting will be done in the morning and evening with occasional shooting during the day of progress is good.

The freezer bag comment doesn't really apply for myself as the inside and outside of my tent will probably not be greater than 5C and I am not staying in any permanent shelters so i dont have to worry about the change in relative humidity.

Any advice on specific lenses?
11-17-2012, 11:52 AM   #10
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Hi Jack,

I'm going to Svalbard/Spitsbergen at 78N. I have a huge down jacket which will hopefully keep me warm and enable me to do some decent shooting. Sea ice has begun to form up there with temperatures being below 0C for a week or so now. Hopefully the snow begins to arrive soon.
11-17-2012, 12:01 PM   #11
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I would actually consider film before digital for something like this, simply due to the lack of a need to worry (as much) over batteries. If I did take digital, it'd probably be a point-and-shoot like an Optio or something. Less parts to fail, less wear on the battery, etc, not to mention smaller. I'd hesitate at taking a big clunky DSLR in a situation like this.
11-17-2012, 12:02 PM   #12
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Lots of batteries and SD cards. The cold drains batteries.
11-17-2012, 12:13 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sagitta Quote
I would actually consider film before digital for something like this, simply due to the lack of a need to worry (as much) over batteries. If I did take digital, it'd probably be a point-and-shoot like an Optio or something. Less parts to fail, less wear on the battery, etc, not to mention smaller. I'd hesitate at taking a big clunky DSLR in a situation like this.
a k1000 will fire the shutter even when no battery is in it.
sunny sixteen rule works.
film must be advanced slowly to prevent breakage or static elecetricity sparks on the film.
remove the lubricants....

go-pro might be a solution with it's small form factor, and some chemical hand warmers.... you could keep it warm and many spare batteries...

but I'm curious to see how things work out with the d-slr...
I'd hope he'll share what works and what doesn't when he gets back.
11-17-2012, 12:32 PM   #14
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Bookmarking this, I`m heading for North-Finland in the new year.
I have shot above 3000mtr with both K20d and K5 in the Alps without problems, with WR and non-WR lenses. The K20 survived and functioned with -20C, that was the coldest.
11-17-2012, 12:44 PM   #15
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Well, let's see - Down here in downtown Tumbleweed, Aridzona, we never see temperatures so low - we are at the other end of the spectrum - 122 was the hottest on record so far (and that was measured in the shade). Overall, I would worry about the focus motor in the DA* 16-50. Personally, I would tend to go with the old screwdrive auto-focus type. That said, with such low temperatures where everything freezes all the lenses would have some sort of lube in them for the barrels. I would consider sending an email off to Pentax, asking about their thought / experience with the bodies and lenses in such low temperatures - specifically as others have indicated - shutters, etc. You are going to be weight limited with skiing/snowshoeing across the landscape.

I really do not remember much in terms of what lenses were sealed prior to the WR designation. I would check the limited along with the "*" designated lenses.

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