View Full Version : Winter is coming...

3-Oct-2017, 09:17
I wasn't quite sure where to start this thread, might be more appropriate in "Style & Technique?" Moderators, if I chose wrong, my apologies!

Anyway, Where I live it typically will be in the 32 to 0 degree F (0 to -17 C) range through out the winter with occasionally much lower temps.
I've sorted out a pretty good routine for my small format excursions--good cold weather clothes, minimal equipment, and ziploc bag camera, lens, and film when returning indoors. I use my battery free cameras and a separate light meter I keep in a pocket so the battery for the meter isn't in the cold too long.

What large format specific considerations should I be thinking about?


Richard Wasserman
3-Oct-2017, 11:00
Don't breathe on the groundglass...

and warm boots, wear really warm boots

3-Oct-2017, 14:42
Use a snorkel to breathe while under the darkcloth to keep from fogging it. Actually, I just hold my breath and pull my head out to exhale.

I leave the camera equipment in the unheated garage to keep from condensation from forming when brought into the house. Like you, I keep the meter in an inner pocket to keep the battery warmer.

I wear one wool mitten and keep the other hand in a pocket most of the time. A mitten can be worn on either hand, so I can switch hands to operate the finer controls of the camera.

Drew Wiley
3-Oct-2017, 17:39
I don't think about it much because winter can arrive any month of the year here in "sunny" Calif. ; so I keep my gear pack appropriately equipped year-round. Had three days is snow about a week ago in the mtns. Waterproof darkcloth, spare meter battery, plastic bags of various sizes. Some tripods legs can freeze shut if you collapse them wet. Try not to breathe on the groundglass or loupe. Various mittens or gloves, depending. Appropriate boots and personal gear, including a parka. Modern view cameras themselves present few problems. Sudden temp changes with filmholders can lead to conde nation on film (lenses too), or popping out of plane. Cold dry snow is easier to contend with than sloppy wet snow.

Mark Sampson
3-Oct-2017, 19:15
Rob, I shot LF outdoors in upstate NY in all seasons from 1982-2010. No precautions necessary specific to LF... what works for smaller formats works for large. Vaughn's comments make sense- I used fingerless gloves. I suppose a wooden tripod would be easier to handle in the cold but I've never tried one. The biggest problem is convincing yourself to get outside in the cold!

3-Oct-2017, 19:27
I work on still life and studio portraits for winter large format work. Outdoor in the winter will be mainly medium and small format for me.

3-Oct-2017, 19:54
Might pad top leg sections with foam taped on so you carry it easier and it is not as cold on the hands. On threads of locking knobs a touch of automotive 'anti sieze' helps. From experience and friends it works at 44 below zero OK.
Extra batteries for anything in an inside pocket always helps. Windproof gloves/mitten and especially for ear coverings and hats. Cutting the wind will help a lot.
Might think of a wind block you can stand behind if you are setting up the View Camera. Or a decent pop up ice fishing shelter to shoot from - inside and out of the wind with zip or pop open windows in bitter cold and wind is really nice to have.

Plastic bag to wrap the camera bear when coming into the warmth from outside so condensation is on the bag, not the camera and lenses.

3-Oct-2017, 19:56
I love the squeak the snow makes under my boots when it's hitting 10 or 20F below zero! I shoot at night a lot, with temps diving to -20 or sometimes -30F. My two biggest tips are breath through a straw when under the dark cloth--very difficult to get condensed breath off of ground glass. My other tip is to wear liner gloves and use those to pull dark slide and any other fine finger operation. Don't expose bare skin to that kind of cold. The spirit levels on your camera are likely either alcohol or glycol, and shouldn't freeze at any temperature found on earth.:)

Kent in SD

3-Oct-2017, 20:05
I third a variation to the straw and snorkel - go to somewhere like Home Depot and buy a couple feet of this clear plastic tubing, about 1/2" diameter, and breathe through that. If it takes you as long to compose and focus as me, holding your breath is not a viable option!

3-Oct-2017, 22:32
Enjoy yourself by staying warm and taking your time. Otherwise you will be miserable and your photography will probably reflect that.

If you don't want it to be fogged or iced over, don't breathe on it.

If it is metal, don't touch it without gloves.

Wooden cameras and tripods are preferable to metal ones.

If something you depend on uses a battery, keep it warm.

Dress warm, eat and drink well, and don't push your body or your equipment as hard as you might in warmer weather.

Take your time.

Carry something to cover yourself and your equipment if it starts to snow/sleet/rain.

Be very, very careful in extreme cold. The same holds in areas where snow and ice make your footing less secure.

Alcohol use is not smart until after you are safely home and in your easy chair.

Drew Wiley
4-Oct-2017, 11:44
I prefer snowshoes to skis for getting around. It'easier to tamp down fresh snow for a tripod platform, or to maneuver close to subjects such as rocks. The taller the tripod, the better. I prefer my larger wooden Ries, for which I have an optional set of baskets for the spike feet, to prevent sinking in powder snow.

4-Oct-2017, 16:50
For me, winter means the sun is lower all the time, making for nicer lighting without needing to wake up early or miss dinner. It also means most of my neighborhood goes to Florida and half the town becomes my backyard to roam.

John Kasaian
4-Oct-2017, 17:19
I got a heck of a deal on new Rossignol ski boots.:cool:

Drew Wiley
4-Oct-2017, 19:03
Can sheet film be developed in ski boots?

John Kasaian
4-Oct-2017, 21:46
Can sheet film be developed in ski boots?

Taco style, maybe. Got to take out the liners though.

Drew Wiley
5-Oct-2017, 09:56
Whenever my leather boots get wet inside, my toes get a nice tannin stain. Maybe a new tweak to pyro?

5-Oct-2017, 10:12
During the winter astronomers get an extra hour of observing but photographers needing early morning access lose an hour.


5-Oct-2017, 10:32
Rob, I shot LF outdoors in upstate NY in all seasons from 1982-2010. No precautions necessary specific to LF... what works for smaller formats works for large. Vaughn's comments make sense- I used fingerless gloves. I suppose a wooden tripod would be easier to handle in the cold but I've never tried one. The biggest problem is convincing yourself to get outside in the cold!

I agree with Mark on just getting yourself outside. I usually set my goals on 1 photo per day that I would hang on my walls. That usually gets me out before sunrise and home late. Ah, the little motivational tricks we play with ourselves!

Jim Jones
5-Oct-2017, 10:54
Long ago I used 35mm cameras around the year in northern Greenland. Temperatures could reach -60 Fahrenheit. Nearly new Leica and Nikon equipment functioned flawlessly, although batteries could be a problem. With the humidity around 5 or 10%, film had to be advanced slowly to prevent static marks. Perhaps dark slides need that precaution, too. Mittens tethered to coat sleeves could be chucked, leaving hands clad in glove liners for fine camera adjustments. Other sound precautions have been mentioned in previous posts.

Thad Gerheim
5-Oct-2017, 11:24
I don't think this has been mentioned yet. Has anyone experienced film movement during long exposures in the cold? I suspect I have, therefore I either leave my film holders overnight in the refrigerator or in the pickup that is parked outside.

Drew Wiley
5-Oct-2017, 14:25
Yes. Film can pop (bend) or shift with temp shock. I have 8x10 adhesive holders immune to that. But allowing film to reach equilibrium with ambient temp before the shot is always important. Condensation on film can also be a risk for the same reason. Dry cold presents another category of risk: static. My holders and darkslides are coated with spray antistaticum. And sometimes I've grounded metal cameras using a short length of speaker wire having an alligator clip on one end and a big nail as a ground rod at the other end. Helpful in high desert in the winter.

5-Oct-2017, 14:32
At a view camera workshop back in 1985, a couple of the participants were in the computer industry. A quick pull-out of the darkslide creates quite a large static charge...I guess they got bored at work and actually tested their holders. I pull mine slowly ever since -- especially when cleaning out the holders.

Drew Wiley
5-Oct-2017, 15:08
Tech supply companies are where you get antistatic spray. It's routinely used for circuit assembly work stations. So I guess your friends weren't bored enough, or they would have thought of that in advance. It works.

Bruce M. Herman
5-Oct-2017, 22:03
My solution for dealing with frozen condensation on the ground glass was to scrape it with an old credit card.

Drew Wiley
6-Oct-2017, 11:04
One more reason to have a real groundglass and not an acrylic or acetate substitute. It's far worse when condensation gets between the GG and a Fresnel. I hate those things!

6-Oct-2017, 16:28
In the late 1970s and 1980s used to backpack an 8x10 outfit hiking usually up frozen over streams or rivers. Had my fair share of "falling through the ice" on numerous occasions. One time far away from the car and was close to getting frost bite on the hike back. Fortunately wore wool socks and wool pants. Reflections off the inside of the bellows from bright snow always a problem causing increased density near the edges of the film.

Then maybe 10 years ago, started shooting shooting 120 film with a Pentax 67 outfit. Negatives printed conventionally with an enlarger and sink full of trays. So much easier to carrying in and out. Plus many times photographed out there in the middle of a full blown blizzard.

Then started to print Platinum/Palladium exclusively from (very calibrated) digital negatives. Still shoot LF and ULF film from spring through fall. In the winter if I really, really want to shoot film, still do it with the Pentax 67 and a few lenses and just scan the negatives.

Most of the time now during the winter months, just use a Nikon D4 with 14mm-24mm, 24mm-70mm, and 80mm-200mm optics. I compose the images as though I was shooting them with my whole plate view camera. Make whole plate sized digital negatives and again print Platinum/Palladium. Biggest plus is that I now have an amazing amount of precise control over the micro-contrast of the snow, especially on a cloudy day or in the middle of a snow storm. Plus what ever the weather conditions, can still shoot images.

I turn 70 this year, and the thought of backpacking my 8x10 up a frozen gorge as I did way back when is left to having fond memories of doing the same. If I am photographing by the side of the road, don't hesitate to use my 11x14, but come the snow... soon find it pretty much impossible to park on the side of a plowed road.

Drew Wiley
6-Oct-2017, 18:45
I really prefer the rich textural quality that full 8X10 gives to snow shots, along with the precise plane of focus control, versus anything smaller. But the P67 system is certainly handy for conditions too sloppy or windy for view "kites". I've also been experimenting with a 6X9 "Texas Leica". It's compact enough to fit in the same pack as the 8X10.

10-Oct-2017, 04:44
Thank you all for the suggestions and advice.

Around here, it's usually humid enough that I've never seen static marks on my small format film. I have, twice, broken 35mm film while advancing because of the cold. I'm pretty sure I won't have that particular concern with 4x5! :rolleyes: But the idea of the film popping and to give it time to acclimate is something I hadn't thought about.
This winter will also clearly demonstrate to me how urgently my shutter needs re-lubing.
The biggest difference, for me this winter, will be that I will need to be fairly intentional about making photos with my 4x5. Pretty much the point of LF anyway but in years past, because of the bigger pockets in my winter coat, I would always have a camera with me--typically a Zorki or Canon rangefinder and a collapsible 50mm. My phone has largely taken over that role, even before I started with 4x5, I had been trying to be more intentional about how and what I shot.

Note taking in the cold will be another challenge!


10-Oct-2017, 08:22

10-Oct-2017, 08:26
When getting ready for an exposure be sure to exercise the shutter with a few actuations before pulling the dark slide to make the exposure. Actually a good idea even in warmer weather.

Drew Wiley
10-Oct-2017, 10:18
Gosh. I've got my Bibler tent on the work table right now to check out everything and recoat the floor. Those things have gotten too expensive for me to replace, but are as good as it gets when it comes to severe conditions.