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Thread: Going to Great North

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    11

    Question Going to Great North

    Hello everyone !

    I'm a bit of a newby in large format photography, I've been doing some for about a year in normal condition. But now this is getting serious and I'm going for a trip in Northern Canada, near Inuvik, for about 1 month. And my question is about the extremely cold temperatures I'll be facing (about -22F or -30C). I think I will be okay but my really worries is for my cameras. I'll be leaving with a Fuji GS 645 and a Graflex equiped with a Optar 135mm 4,7 (which I haven't buy yet). I'll be using some Kodak portra films with the first and some Kodak Ektachrome with the second.

    How do you think should I protect the films? (I thought of congelation bags we use for food but I'm really not sure) And the cameras? A friend told me that with those mechanical cameras, the oil could freeze and then the camera refuses to shoot. What can I do to prepare them to such cold?

    I hope really much somebody can help me.

    Thank you very much in advance,

    Cheers,

    To

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    363

    Re: Going to Great North

    First of all, relax. -30C is nowhere near "extremely cold temperatures". Oil doesn't freeze at -30C.
    All else you can find in the archive of this forum. Good luck!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    Re: Going to Great North

    Great, thank you very much !

    I'll be searching then

    To

  4. #4

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    Re: Going to Great North

    Quote Originally Posted by LastB View Post
    Hello everyone !

    I'm a bit of a newby in large format photography, I've been doing some for about a year in normal condition. But now this is getting serious and I'm going for a trip in Northern Canada, near Inuvik, for about 1 month. And my question is about the extremely cold temperatures I'll be facing (about -22F or -30C). I think I will be okay but my really worries is for my cameras. I'll be leaving with a Fuji GS 645 and a Graflex equiped with a Optar 135mm 4,7 (which I haven't buy yet). I'll be using some Kodak portra films with the first and some Kodak Ektachrome with the second.

    How do you think should I protect the films? (I thought of congelation bags we use for food but I'm really not sure) And the cameras? A friend told me that with those mechanical cameras, the oil could freeze and then the camera refuses to shoot. What can I do to prepare them to such cold?

    I hope really much somebody can help me.

    Thank you very much in advance,

    Cheers,

    To
    As far as film goes, the film will be fine. But static electricity can be a problem, so pull your dark slides very slowly.

    At very cold temperatures, shutters can slow down. If you shutters are old and have not had a CLA recently, a CLA might be an order. Removing gunk and getting fresh lubrication can help keep shutter speeds accurate.

    But your 2 biggest issues will likely be your own comfort, and the ground glass. Be sure to dress in layers and have warm boots, mittens, and lighter gloves that you can wear under the mittens but still be able to operate the cameras. When operating a camera in very cold temperatures, it is easy to fog or ice up glass. Do your best to keep your breath away from view finders and lens elements (its amazing how little breath it takes to fog up a viewfinder). And you pretty much need to hold your breath when under a dark cloth looking at the ground glass.

    After being outside in cold weather, you need to be careful when bringing your cold gear back inside. Bringing very cold gear into a warm moist environment will present condensation issues. I bring all my gear into warm rooms while packed in a camera bag. Keep the bag sealed until it reaches room temperature.

  5. #5
    Preston Birdwell
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    Columbia, CA
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    1,577

    Re: Going to Great North

    Greg posted some excellent ideas, but I'd like to add three safety items, since I don't know how experienced you are with working in extreme cold.

    1. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, and how to treat it.

    2. Know the signs and symptoms of frostbite, and how to treat it.

    3. Don't go out alone. Take someone with you who can see if you're in trouble due to the cold.

    --P
    Preston-Columbia CA

    "If you want nice fresh oats, you have to pay a fair price. If you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse; that comes a little cheaper."

  6. #6
    (Shrek)
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    Mar 2011
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    Montreal
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    Re: Going to Great North

    Issues with the GS645: film becomes brittle at -30, so wind the film slowly. Also, you will possibly have film flatness issues. But the GS645 is a good choice for this, it does not wind the film counter to the direction of the spool, and no sharp turns in the film path like Hassy, Mamiya, etc.

    For the large format, your shutter will almost certainly be fine if it's in good condition (test it beforehand by leaving it in your freezer overnight then check all the speeds), as others have said the main difficulty is in fogging your ground glass while focusing. Once it ices over, it won't come clear again without vigorous rubbing. Also, fingers will stick to tripods, etc., so the usual cold weather precautions apply. I have taken many shots in the Montreal area in the -20 to -25 temperature range, never any issues with my gear, I just learned to focus by holding my breath for 20 or 30 seconds at a time, and turning to the side, out from under the dark cloth, when I had to breathe.

  7. #7

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    Re: Going to Great North

    Good suggestions.... If you haven't bought that thing yet... you might consider a wooden camera instead of a metal one, and certainly a carbon fiber tripod vs one with metal legs.

    I can't imagine going out with a view camera without some b&w film...

    Lenny
    EigerStudios
    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  8. #8
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    4,079

    Re: Going to Great North

    Lenny, I know you can take care of your health and gear, but you realize, I hope, that there is no sun at all in Inuvik this time of year. None. There is only moon-rise and moon-set.

    Regarding gear, I would not trust any old lens without a specialized CLA for sub-zero F conditions. I hate to say this, but even living in the Tropics of Minnesota only half of my shutters work in cold weather.
    .

  9. #9
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Going to Great North

    Quote Originally Posted by Preston View Post
    3. Don't go out alone. Take someone with you who can see if you're in trouble due to the cold.
    This is very important. At least carry a GPS with you.
    Every year a few people get lost on the tundra, not all of them newbies.
    When you leave town, you are immediately alone and far from everything; there is nothing else for hundreds of miles, and the emptiness can be disorienting, especially if you start to get cold and panic.
    Doubly so when it's dark most of the time.
    Be careful, the far north is not for the faint of heart or spirit.

  10. #10

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
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    Re: Going to Great North

    A photographer once told me to take care with mechanical shutters by having them cleaned of all lubricants and relubed using K-Y Jelly. She said it stands up to freezing temperatures better(won't congeal) and when you return have them cleaned again and properly lubed.
    But that was a long time ago, maybe shutter lubricants are formulated differently these days.

    Aerial camera lenses have heaters to keep frost from forming, but I wonder what Shackelton's photographer used to keep his lens from frosting? It might be worth checking into. I remember some Artic photographer mention something about film not staying flat in the holder. I'm not sure what the solution was but it should be in the archives.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

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