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  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2020
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    Question Lake Baikal in the Winter

    Iím about to make the journey to lake Baikal and plan to take my 8x10 with me.

    Wondering if there are any tips for large format photography in extreme winter conditions.

    Temperatures are expected to be around -35degC while Iím there.

    Iíve actually spent a fair bit of time in this type of weather but given Iím a relatively new to LF, I havenít really used my large format gear in these type of conditions.

    Interested in any tips / suggestions you all may have.

    Thanks
    Matt

  2. #2

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    Jul 2018
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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    I don’t have any tips for weather that cold, however I would make sure your shutters are freshly CLA’d or at least don’t have old grease/oil that may thicken in cold weather. I had a shutter work fine at room temp but became sluggish at 25F(-4C). Condensation can also be an issue. I find it’s mostly when I go from outside to inside, but leaving everything in my bag to acclimate for a few hours usually does the trick.

  3. #3
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    Study this site https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/shackleton/images.html

    Packard shutters use no lubricant https://packardshutter.com/
    2022

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    For those here who do not search

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Baikal
    2022

  5. #5

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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    Maybe take a snorkel to keep from fogging the ground glass when composing under the dark cloth?
    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.

  6. #6

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    Apr 2015
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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    I don;t have such experience, but I'd guess that "fogging the ground glass" at that temperature could require the subsequent use of an ice-scraper!

    You'll want to keep your meter batteries from freezing, but keep condensation off the lens of a spot meter.

    I have seen advice to wait a couple of minutes after removing the dark slide in order for the film to settle from potential buckling from the temperature adjustment.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  7. #7
    John Olsen
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    Jan 2012
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    Whidbey Island, WA
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    787

    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    I would think that gloves suitable for this expedition would be too bulky for the usual controls. Can you get oversize knobs for your controls? Or glue larger diameter caps on the existing knobs?
    Good luck on this.

  8. #8

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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    Be very careful of static electricity discharges - remove/reinsert dark slides slowly! Somewhat better with metal darkslides and/or wooden holders.

    Also...if there is a means of keeping your nose/mouth outside of the dark cloth while focussing/adjusting, this can go a long way to help mitigate screen moisture issues.

    Make sure your gear is well covered/sealed when taking it back indoors - and let everything come up to room temps prior to uncovering. This will help mitigate condensation issues.

    If your focussing screen happens to be of the "two piece" (fresnel sheet and separate ground glass) - do check this periodically to ascertain that excess moisture has not collected between these sheets. If moisture is visible - carefully remove the sheets and prop them up somehow so they can dry off separately.

    Carry with you whatever sized plastic bag is large enough to throw over your tripod-mounted camera when precipitation becomes untenable.

    If you find yourself out on slippery ice...make sure to wear some traction (ice creepers) on your footgear, and if your tripod feet are spiked...all the better!

    If the lake is typically windy this could be frustrating. If the wind comes in gusts, you can (if your exposure times are relatively short) wait for the calm spots between the gusts. For steady winds, a large "golf sized" umbrella can often be used to shelter the camera from this wind.

    Depending on the conditions on the ground (especially if there happens to be any traces of windblown sand and/or standing water) you may want to pack a small ground cloth upon which to lay your pack prior to setting up.

    If you depend on mechanically timed shutter speeds (one second or shorter), then by all means, if your project will mean that you will be outside in such cold temps. for extended periods, either pre-test your shutters in such cold, if possible, prior to your travels...and/or have them either de-lubricated slightly or re-lubed with cold weather lubricant. Be very leery of complete de-lubrication, as this can shorten the life of various shutter mechanisms. In the days of old - such delubrication was pretty much the only option...but there are some pretty amazing, "cold proof" lubes around these days.

    Oversized mittens with thin inner gloves (the kind with rubbery fingertips) are a great combo to keep hands warm while traveling to your set up sites, then working mechanics of the camera with inside thinner gloves. If you can bring a thermos of something warm...great! (staying hydrated is really important in cold temps!)

    Sounds like a great project...have fun, and stay warm!

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    There is a kind of defogging wax used for ski goggles that might work on the outside surface of a groundglass. A snorkel would work better. All of John's preceding advice is excellent - thin inner gloves, with thicker waterproof mitten outers. You can also carry little instant heat packs or battery warmed gloves. Carry spare light meter batteries; either use a remote battery cable with the battery itself warm in a pocket, or a spare warmly there. Traction spikes for boots - shop carefully; the cheaper ones seem to fail quite soon (not to be confused in with real crampons). Wood or CF tripod; not metal - things will instantly freeze to metal. Treat darkslide with industrial antitstatic spray. Don't store your gear inside a warm cabin; but in usage temperatures, or you'll get condensation on lens elements and on the film surface itself. Fresnel lenses are voodoo for trapping condensation.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2020
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    15

    Re: Lake Baikal in the Winter

    Thanks to everyone for the tips!

    I've made it back from my trip to Lake Baikal. It was the first trip long-distance trip that I've taken with an 8x10. Definitely, an experience and I've learned some things from the trip. The lake is an amazing and unique place. It is quite the journey to get there but well worth it. For me, winter is also the ideal time to visit. I think mid-Feb to mid-Mar is probably the ideal time to go. The ice is the selling point for a visit and this is when it is solid. At times, I was concerned about the wind but I came to realize that the wind is a blessing. It's great to have a windy day or night to blow the snow off the ice.

    Gear I took
    I took a Chamonix Alpinist X, 10 film holders (in hindsight this was more than I needed), two 300mm lenses, a 450mm lens, ~50sheets of Delta 100, and 20 sheets of Portra 160.

    Also, I took a Harrison changing tent to load and unload film at the end of the day.

    My Experience
    • Static Electricity - This is a very valid concern but more of a problem when back in the hotel and actually more of a problem back at home! I live in a cold and dry climate that has horrible static buildup (our poor long-haired dog). When I load and unload 8x10 at home, I have issues with static. My solution periodically is to ground myself and before I start changing film, in my bathroom converted to a darkroom, I run the shower and water to put some moisture into the air. In my experience, if I run the shower in advance, I have successfully eliminated the need to frequently ground myself. The climate in Baikal was not so dry so static didn't prove to be a problem.
    • Condensation / Moisture on the ground glass - One of the few upsides of the pandemic. Wearing a mask while under the dark cloth was quite effective at avoiding fogging. I did have problems with my loupe fogging so I'd have to let it clear up periodically but it was rarely a problem.
    • Traction devices on your shoes - Great advice and something I can't recommend enough.
    • Slowly adjust the temperature of the gear - This was also not a problem. Most of the time I'd have a bit of a walk to get where I was going so my gear would slowly acclimate while in my backpack. I didn't once have any problem with condensation forming on any of my lenses or ground glass.
    • Wind - It was brutal at times. I used our van as a windshield when possible, shielded with my body at times and other times just waited it out. There was only 1 shot that was just too windy to make work.
    • Lubrication of shutters - Unfortunately, this was something that I didn't have the opportunity to address. I had to roll the dice. Luckily, I haven't seen any issues so far but I've only developed a handful of shots. I would test my shutter a couple of times right before exposing it and make sure everything seemed ok. I only had one or two times when the shutter didn't fire as expected. This was also on the first test of the shutter after I had focused, composed, and was ready to expose. After the first test of the shutter, it started to operate in what seemed normal.
    • Staying Warm - very warm. The hardest parts to keep warm were my hands. I found natural fibers (yak) to be the most effective. I have dual-layer mountaineering gloves but the insulating layers are not very effective. On the coldest days, I would double up with my yak mittens inside a gore-tex shell mitten. Most of the other members of my group had issues with keeping their feet warm but I have some quite thick Sorel boots which worked wonderfully.
    • Hydration - I underestimated this one and paid for it after the 2nd day. I was feeling drained and worn out. After that, I adjusted and made sure to have water regularly and hot tea when possible. This made all the difference.


    Lessons Learned
    Some things I would do differently next time.

    • Not so many holders - I took ten 8x10 film holders with me. This was more than I needed. I would have been good with four film holders or five at most. This added a lot of extra weight and a fair bit of space.
    • Film choices - Unfortunately, I didn't have time to pick up some 8x10 slide film. I would have preferred to take this and leave the Portra160 behind.
    • Tripod - I regret not having some spiked "ice feet" for my tripod. This would have been a much-appreciated tool. I was working on the ice most of the time. The clarity and smoothness of the ice are some of the most impressive parts. The surface is incredibly slippery. The wind would at times move the tripod on the ice and small things like moving in and out of dark cloth and removing the dark cloth to insert the film folder were enough to slide the tripod. I was able to work around this and I would find small patches of snow on the ice that would provide sufficient friction for the tripod.
    • Lenses - I wish I had a wider angle lens to use on my 8x10. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything wider than 300mm for 8x10. There were cases where I was wishing that I had a 240 or 150mm lens. I've since purchased a 150mm and 270mm lens.
    • Cleaning lenses - I also learned that I needed to clean my lenses every night before packing for the next day. There is no good opportunity to clean your lens in the field when temperatures are that low. The yak mittens were warm but at times the fibers would get on the lens glass. To manage this, I started to remove my mittens to remove lens caps and install the lens on the camera. Then quickly get my hands back in my mittens!

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