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Thread: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

  1. #1

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    Nov 2021
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    Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    I am taking my 4x5 into the great outdoors and particularly the Canadian winter. I am familiar with using my 35mm and 120, but I wondered if there are any particular considerations with LF film. I expect a typical day would be getting from my home into a heated car, then out into the location....sometimes the shots might be car-side, sometimes several hours by ski. There will be some overnight excursions, but the temperature fluctuations are relatively slow.

    My background with LF was in the studio (many moons ago). We were meticulous with film and that included checking emulsion batches for colour correction and getting film out of the fridge and down to room temperature the night before a shoot. Should I be concerned with the ability of the film to adapt? Should I actually leave it in the freezer until I go out to shoot? Does the size of the film create an exponential concern that is not present in 35mm?

  2. #2

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    The greatest concern is probably getting condensation on your film holders. Keep them in a plastic bag and don't open them going from a hot cold to very cold air. Probably an even greater concern with LF is shutters, older ones tend to act completely differently in cold weather than do at room temperature. That is they start working very slowly or hanging up, it can be pretty frustrating so test any shutters by putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer for a bit and operating them through the bag.

  3. #3

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    As domaz said, condensation and slowing shutters are probably your biggest concerns. I haven't worked in extreme cold for over 20 years, but back when I did I kept everything in the trunk of my car while out and about; theory here was that all the equipment and film holders would normalize to the colder conditions, thereby eliminating (or, at least, minimizing) the risk of condensation. Nothing much you can do about the shutters slowing down. I used to fire the shutter several times before the actual exposure and, through experience, I knew how much to close down the aperture to compensate for the slower shutter speed. My old Ilex shutters seemed to be more prone to the cold than the newer Copal shutters, though all were affected to some degree. Another issue that you may not have considered is your hands! LF cameras generally require the availability of nimble fingers to work the controls. When it wasn't too cold, I used the style of gloves that leaves your fingertips exposed. When it was near or below zero, I used the type of glove that folded over your fingers. When you needed your hands, fold back the top part and it attached via velcro to the back of your hand. Might also use a large over-glove, too, in the bitter cold.

    Good luck! I loved shooting LF in the winter. Actually, it was my favorite season to make photographs.

  4. #4

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    When you pull your darkslides out, do it slowly. Plastic film holders can build up a small static charge in dry air that can generate little sparks if you pull the slides out too quickly that can leave marks on your film. Wooden holders mitigate this.
    Reid

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjbuzzclick/

  5. #5

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    Quote Originally Posted by rjbuzzclick View Post
    When you pull your darkslides out, do it slowly. Plastic film holders can build up a small static charge in dry air that can generate little sparks if you pull the slides out too quickly that can leave marks on your film. Wooden holders mitigate this.
    Ah yes...static...a very good point.

  6. #6

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    You don't want to breathe on the groundglass, it'll fog right up. I've photographed in -20 F weather and it was great fun, the light can be wonderful.
    ____________________________________________

    Richard Wasserman

    https://www.rwasserman.com/

    http://richardwassermanphotographer.tumblr.com

  7. #7

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    As domaz said, condensation and slowing shutters are probably your biggest concerns. I haven't worked in extreme cold for over 20 years, but back when I did I kept everything in the trunk of my car while out and about; theory here was that all the equipment and film holders would normalize to the colder conditions, thereby eliminating (or, at least, minimizing) the risk of condensation. Nothing much you can do about the shutters slowing down. I used to fire the shutter several times before the actual exposure and, through experience, I knew how much to close down the aperture to compensate for the slower shutter speed. My old Ilex shutters seemed to be more prone to the cold than the newer Copal shutters, though all were affected to some degree. Another issue that you may not have considered is your hands! LF cameras generally require the availability of nimble fingers to work the controls. When it wasn't too cold, I used the style of gloves that leaves your fingertips exposed. When it was near or below zero, I used the type of glove that folded over your fingers. When you needed your hands, fold back the top part and it attached via velcro to the back of your hand. Might also use a large over-glove, too, in the bitter cold.

    Good luck! I loved shooting LF in the winter. Actually, it was my favorite season to make photographs.
    Yes...I suspect I'll be firing the shutter a few times to get it ready...and I'll need to experiment to see where speeds go to. When you mention extreme temperatures, at what point is that a concern? 15f? -5f? -15f?
    AS far as fingers go...good point..especially since the Toyo is a metal brick, it'll conduct the cold quite quickly. I'm a former alpinist/climber, so working with my hands in the cold is familiar. I use a snug liner glove under my mittens and place a heat pad inside the mitten for instant relief (a cold hand in a cold mitt, just stays cold).

  8. #8

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    Quote Originally Posted by domaz View Post
    The greatest concern is probably getting condensation on your film holders. Keep them in a plastic bag and don't open them going from a hot cold to very cold air. Probably an even greater concern with LF is shutters, older ones tend to act completely differently in cold weather than do at room temperature. That is they start working very slowly or hanging up, it can be pretty frustrating so test any shutters by putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer for a bit and operating them through the bag.
    Ah yes...and being on the west side of the Rockies, there is ample moisture in the air.

  9. #9

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Wasserman View Post
    You don't want to breathe on the groundglass, it'll fog right up. I've photographed in -20 F weather and it was great fun, the light can be wonderful.
    Another benefit of the "mask-up" trend, is other uses for masks... Used them while on camera cuts fog on GG or viewfinder... Other uses include not fogging up car windows on cold, wet nights, a little face warmth while cold, hides beard stubble if you miss a shave, and when dusty/windy...

    I will keep them in my kit after pandemic passes... ;-)

    Steve K

  10. #10

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    Re: Film and winter temperature swings going on location

    Quote Originally Posted by Mudrunner View Post
    When you mention extreme temperatures, at what point is that a concern? 15f? -5f? -15f?
    When working LF in the cold, I always considered anything down to zero as simply cold and below zero as extreme cold; especially if any wind is blowing! I once made a landscape image where the ambient temp was about -5F with about a 20mph wind; and that was with my 8x10! Don't know what that equates to vis-a-vis wind chill but suffice it to say that it was DARN cold and my cranky Ilex shutter really didn't like it, either. Bummer that it wasn't a portfolio image.

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