Photo tips for Antarctica?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Kulvinder Singh Matharu, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Hi All,

    Just booked to go to cruising + zodiac landings to Antarctica (South
    Shetlands, Peninsular, etc) next month.

    I'm a Canon EOS 30D user and have the following lenses:

    16-35mm f2.8 L USM

    28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM

    70-200m f2.8 L USM

    70-300m f4-5.6 IS USM

    I'll probably take all lenses except for the 70-200m f2.8 (too

    Do you have tips/recommendations for any particular equipment that
    would be useful (filters, tripods, plastic bags, clothing, remote
    control, don't take a lens, etc), and also if there are any special
    photography techniques for the Antarctic that I need to pay
    particular attention to?

    Also, due to the large investment already made for the trip, would an
    additional comparatively small outlay on a Canon 40D be wise
    especially in terms of having a spare camera in case the other fails?

    Thanks in advance!


    Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Website :
    Contact :

    Brain! Brain! What is brain?!
    Kulvinder Singh Matharu, Nov 2, 2007
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  2. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    Two cameras is good. Extra batteries are a must -- they die faster in
    the cold. Polarizing filters for all of the lenses would be a good
    idea. Star filters might also be nice. Tripod and QRs for everything
    might also be good so you're not shaking from the cold -- or at least
    a monopod.

    Get a pair of mittens with an finger-opening on the palm and a pair of
    inner gloves -- such as hunters wear, so you can stick your fingertips
    out when you need to, but have mittens on the rest of the time.
    Pat, Nov 2, 2007
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  3. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Craig Guest

    All good ideas. I'd also recommend a remote shutter release (Canon
    TC80N3 or chinese clone available on ebay for about $70 + $20
    shipping). This way you can keep your hands in your pockets if need be
    and still get a shot without shaking the camera.

    Craig, Nov 2, 2007
  4. Ditch the DSLR kits entirely. Get a high-quality super-zoom P&S camera, or two,
    that can easily fit in a pocket next to your body. One favorite main camera, one
    for backup. Unless you find a way to strap all your DSLR cameras + lenses next
    to your body or put them in heated bags you're going to run into troubles. All
    the mechanical linkage in the cameras' shutters, mirrors, and the lenses'
    diaphragms will be ready to freeze-up the first time they get cold enough.
    Caused by the most minor of condensation from residual humidity inside of them.
    Or more commonly, they become sluggish and cause errors in exposures and
    anything else that slower reaction times can cause from their
    lubricant-dependent mechanical linkages. I frequently take photos in sub-arctic
    conditions every year. Going out for 5 or more hours in -30 to -40 C. air
    temperatures (-65 C. wind-chills or more) is not uncommon for me. Keep in mind
    that liquid mercury turns into a solid metal at -38 C, food is flash-frozen at
    -28 C. to help keep things in perspective. The number of times that DSLR
    equipment has failed due to cold made me give up on them completely. With a good
    P&S camera all of its electronics and its batteries are kept nice and warm in a
    pocket next to your body, there's also few to no mechanical parts that can be
    affected by the cold. Taking the camera out of a pocket only long enough to take
    some images then put it back where it is warm until the next time you need it.
    Keep several backup sets of batteries in some other pockets next to your body
    Joell Jorgensen, Nov 2, 2007
  5. Isn't this a bit extreme for a cruise with occasional Zodiac landings? I
    mean the part about ditching the SLRs altogether. The P+S is great for
    the on shore excursions, but I doubt he'll encounter the length and
    breadth of the conditions you, Joell, encounter.

    Anyway, bon voyage, and do post pix when you get back!
    John McWilliams, Nov 2, 2007
  6. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Pat Guest

    Absolutely, positively don't do this!

    You want you camera, whether P&S or dSLR to be at ambient air temp for
    a number of reasons.

    First, if you camera is a big heat source, the heat will distort

    Second, and more importantly, taking the camera in and out of heat
    will cause condensation in all kinds of places you don't want it and
    may freeze your camera into on big block of ice. Think of what
    happened to glasses when you want indoors in the winter. You want in
    and out and in and out and the condensation will start freezing.
    Putting it in and out of your coat is a recipe for disaster.

    But the poster raises a good point. It wouldn't hurt to carry a zip-
    lock bag (self-sealing plastic bag if you're not in the US) with you
    so you can put your camera inside it before you go inside. Then any
    condensation will be on the bag, not the camera. Once it warms up,
    you can take it out of the bag.
    Pat, Nov 2, 2007
  7. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    TH O Guest

    As one recent Antarctic expedition learned, don't expect weatherproof
    Canon equipment to survive mist, drizzle, and moisture. Use umbrellas,
    covers, and whatever else it takes to protect the equipment.
    TH O, Nov 2, 2007
  8. ONLY if you start out with your camera at ambient air temperature. If you
    started out at ambient air-temp with your camera in arctic conditions it
    wouldn't even work due to the batteries, mechanics, and other electronics being
    unable to perform.

    You've obviously never used a camera under extreme weather conditions and are
    only offering you foolish advice from what you only think should work, but would
    cause nothing but problems for those under real circumstances.
    WRONG. This is only true if there is a huge air-mass if differing air-temps
    between you and your subject. The heat rising from the top of your camera will
    have zero effect on the scene in front of the camera. This is the same reason
    that people with refractor telescopes don't have to wait for their optics to
    reach ambient air-temps, because of the sealed optics assembly. The converse is
    not true in a reflecting telescope design, where the warmth from the massive
    mirror at the base of an open tube can induce air currents into the light path
    of the subject you are imaging.

    (I so hate having to waste my time correct the obvious errors of the ignorant
    and foolish with a keyboard, those that are only arm-chair photographers that
    know nothing about reality, only virtual reality.)
    WRONG. The only time condensation happens is when the surface is COOLER than the
    ambient air-temperatures, and only then when the temperature of that surface is
    below the dew-point of the surrounding air. Taking the camera out of your pocket
    just long enough to take a photo or photos will not allow the camera to cool
    down sufficiently to cause condensation when putting it back in your pocket.

    It's obvious you've never done this and have zero experience with this. You are
    only aping words you've read by some other moron online somewhere. Please
    refrain from offering your foolish advice so you aren't wasting the time of
    people like me who have to correct your annoying ignorance and misinformation.
    At last, you finally make one important point. The best situation of all is to
    enclose your camera in a harsh-environment cover BEFORE taking it outside, BUT
    making sure you trap some of the COLD less humid air inside of the bag just as
    you venture out. Then keeping the camera warm while surrounded by the dryer air
    (that you trapped from the outside air) will have no effect. If you forget to do
    this then make sure you trap some of that cold dry air inside the bag BEFORE you
    bring it inside to warm up again.

    Rule 1 is to always keep the dryer air to the camera side, no matter its

    Rule 2 is to always keep the camera warmer (above the dew-point) than the
    ambient air so any humidity in that air can't condense on its surfaces.

    Rule #3, someone please shoot idiots, like Pat, that reply to posts where I have
    to then waste another 15 minutes of my time trying to REcorrect all their
    amazing stupidity and BAD information.
    Joell Jorgensen, Nov 2, 2007
  9. Stay Warm
    Have Fun
    Take Photos

    In that order. :)
    Joseph Meehan, Nov 2, 2007
  10. Do some research on the history of Canon cameras in the
    Antarctic! The extra body is probably a *very* good

    But there is a whole lot more to it than that.
    Unfortunately I don't have time to research it well
    enough to narrow down some of the details, so I'll make
    you a promise: you do the research and come back with a
    few details, and I'll tell you what I would do. The
    significance is that while I've never been to the
    Antarctic, I do test all of my cameras in the Arctic!

    What I need to know is the general climate at the
    locations you will be visiting at the times that you'll
    be there. What is the average temperature at that time
    of year, and are these all coastal area. Give me the
    latitute of each place, and the expected average
    temperature and type and amount of pecipitation for the
    month that you'll be visiting. (In essense, is it late
    fall or early winter? Does it snow there every day that
    month, or rain 1/3rd of the days, or what?) Basically,
    you tell me what kind of weather you might see, and I'll
    tell you what that means for photography.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  11. If it is cold enough to require that, he *absolutely*
    will want to be dressed in a parka that is in fact large
    enough to tuck a DSLR inside, which will easily keep it
    warm enough. If the parka is not large enough, then it
    should be traded for one that is, because it's dangerous
    to wear an ill fitting parka.
    Long before any linkage freezes up the batteries will
    refuse to provide enough power (even if fully charged)
    to operate the camera.

    Hence except for cameras running on external batteries,
    there is no need to even begin considering mechanical
    You missed the single most essential item though!

    Plastic garbage sacks. Any time a camera or lense is
    taken from a cold location to a warm locations it is
    essential that it be wrapped up in a water proof
    container and allowed to reach a temperature well above
    the dew point *before* it is exposed to warm moist air.
    That applies to taking a camera from outside at -2C into
    any normally heated building, such as a home. The
    camera should be stuffed into a plastic bag and kept
    there until it warms up.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  12. Well, don't do about half of it... :)
    Oh? Can you explain that in more detail, as I can't figure out
    what you mean.
    You are almost right in what you say above. What is
    missing is that it is *not* the heat which is the
    problem, but the moisture content of the air. Hence, it
    is a bad idea to bring a camera into a warm house,
    because almost invariably there is a very significant
    amount of moisture in the warm air inside the house.

    However, not all warm places necessarily have moisture.
    If the outside (dry) air is heated _without_ adding
    moisture, then it simply is not a problem.

    There are at least two times that a person might
    encounter such conditions. One is a vehicle. If it is
    full of people, and has been warm for a couple hours or
    more, then it might well have a lot of moisture (look at
    the windows to see!). But if there are only one or two
    people in it, and if it was just now warmed up, it will
    *not* be loaded with moisture. (If the windows aren't
    getting "steamed", neither will a camera.)

    The other place where one most likely (but not always)
    will *not* see moist air just because it is warm... is
    inside their own coat. If you aren't out running and
    sweating, it will not be moist.
    It's the best way to go, and in no way is it a recipe
    for disaster.
    Ziplock bags are okay, but they are best for stowing
    lenses and other small items in. The best solution is a
    roll of garbage bags. The "Tall Kitchen" bags are
    great, though even a grocery bag (or two) will do
    nicely. It doesn't have to be air tight, it just has to
    keep the outside air off the camera. So an open ended
    bag that is simply wrapped around the camera and then
    left in one place or an hour or two is a great plenty.
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  13. I wasn't much impressed with what either of you had to
    say, so I'm not inclined to advise the OP to believe
    either of you.
    The fact is that what he said was correct. You didn't
    read it well.

    If you go inside and condensate forms, and then you go
    outside... it freezes. You'll endup with not just
    fogged glasses, but glasses with ice on them.

    His mistake, which you seem to have entirely missed, is
    that the above happens when you go into and out of a
    nice warm *moist* house... but inside your coat is
    usually not a moist place, because all of the air inside
    your coat was cold to start with and has no moisture
    content. Unless you are doing serious physical
    excercise and sweating profusely, there is no danger in
    taking a camera into and then out of a coat repeatedly.
    What are you talking about?
    But that wasn't accomplished by what you described
    Exactly. But of course that is only necessary if there
    actually is some moisture in the air, and the camera is
    significantly colder than the air. If you are outside
    in a cool climate, it simply is not a problem *until* you
    go inside of a warm moist house.

    Give *no* thought to any "harsh-environment cover",
    whatever that is, on the way *out* the door! At least not
    other than by making sure you will have something handy when
    you come back and want to go inside... because that's when
    it is needed.
    He wasn't 100% correct, but he did better than you!

    Now, tell me... just how many times have you actually
    *seen* that -65C windchill you mentioned????
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
  14. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Paul Furman Guest

    I would bring the 70-200 & leave the 70-300, it's a cruise not a
    backpack. Buy a 50/1.8 & leave the 28-135 if you feel the need to save

    And take a *huge* grain of salt with the poster who made up the Jorgeson
    name, it's the same troll we've seen around here recently under dozens
    of different names, I'm quite sure.
    Paul Furman, Nov 3, 2007
  15. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Douglas Guest

    And you'd know, would you, image thief?
    Stealing my images and then altering them to try to make some mileage is a
    disgusting attempt to damage the original post comparing two "taken
    simultaneously" images, one a P&S and the other from a 20D without having
    the guts to use your own images... Destroyed any credibility your advice
    might have had.

    And now... We have Paul the gardener giving "expert" advise on photography
    in Antarctica? ROTFL. Where did you get your experience? In the cold store

    And to attempt to dilute some advice from someone who has a clue on the
    issue is just further conviction you are an idiot looking for recognition
    where none is deserved.

    P&S cameras are absolutely the way to go in freezing conditions when you can
    keep them warn in your pocket. Let's see your DSLR and 70 -200 in a warming

    Tell us too, the effect of -16 degree chill factor on the IS system with a
    camera exposed to the elements as you race to shore on a Zodiac. While
    you're at it, let's have your notion on how to preserve battery life at
    sub-zero temperatures when all that separates the battery from the ice is a
    plastic door! I can't wait to hear this gem of advice from the image master

    Douglas, Nov 3, 2007
  16. Remember that the OP is talking about very serious cold,
    i.e. Antartica. Under those conditions you have to wear enough
    insulating clothing that there's a very large heat difference between
    the air outside and inside your coat, meaning there is a very large
    difference in the air's moisture holding capability. Under those
    conditions you don't need to sweat profusely, or even sweat at all,
    for a camera which has spent a few minutes outside the coat to acquire
    condensation when put back inside. There's a moisture gradient based
    on natural transpiration as well as a heat gradient passing through
    your clothing. It's also quite difficult when wrapped up well enough
    to stay warm while standing around in seriously cold windy conditions
    to avoid sweating a bit when you start moving around.

    No I haven't been to Antartica, but even Scottish hills in winter are
    quite cold enough to demonstrate these effects.
    Chris Malcolm, Nov 3, 2007
  17. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    TH O Guest

    It would be so much easier if we just didn't read this nonsense and
    added all these individuals to our newsreader's killfile (aka message
    filters). It's like the Hatfields and the McCoys here.
    TH O, Nov 3, 2007
  18. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Paul Furman Guest

    Already filtered to be marked as read. BTW I didn't give any advice on
    cold weather photography, just pointed out a troll hiding under yet
    another name. I would use the 70-200 over the 70-300 because it simply
    takes better pictures. A friend went to Iceland & bought that lens just
    for the trip and the only other lens he had was the kit lens. He took
    some great shots. I have the Nikon equivalent.
    Paul Furman, Nov 3, 2007
  19. Kulvinder Singh Matharu

    Scott W Guest

    My wife has the 70-300, she even lets me use it from time to time, it
    has very
    good image stabilization, something I believe his 70-200 is missing.
    On a boat the IS is very nice to have.

    As for the troll, I do believe he have seen him under a lot of
    different names.


    Scott W, Nov 3, 2007
  20. Remember, next time, to *read* what the OP writes.
    Parts of Antarctica gets seriously cold... but the OP is
    *not* flying to the South Pole in July. He's going on a
    ship, and described it as,

    "Just booked to go to cruising + zodiac landings to
    Antarctica (South Shetlands, Peninsular, etc) next

    Do you know where South Shetlands is? Do you know what
    a zodiac is? Do you know what the primary requirement
    for "cruising" is? What is the common denominator in
    all of that is?

    *Open* *sea* *water*!!!!

    I'll let you do the calculations as to what that means
    about temperatures. Keep in mind it is spring down
    there, so it's how warm does it have to be to *melt*
    ice, not how cold does it have to be to from ice.
    Under what conditions? You haven't got a clue, either
    about the conditions or what one would wear there.

    I spent about 7 hours out and about with a camera
    yesterday, and passed by, probably ten times or so, the
    location in shown here,

    Incidentally, I was carrying around a DSLR and the
    visitor who was with me had a small P&S. He was on a
    one day visit from Florida, and wore a coat. I didn't.
    But there is very rarely any difference in the actual
    amount of moisture, simply because virtually all of the
    air inside the coat came from outside the coat.

    Unless you are running or otherwise engaged in vigorous
    activity (which is something to be _avoided_ in those
    conditions due to the life threatening nature of other
    typical results), there is no moisture of any
    significance that can condense on something under your
    That statement is what you suppose to be true. It's
    No, there is not. There is a *temperature* gradient.
    That means there is a gradient in the maximum amount of
    moisture that the air can hold, but it does not mean
    that somehow moisture is magically added as the air
    warms. It doesn't.

    If you warm up air with no moisture, it will *not*
    condense moisture out when it is then cooled off.
    Wanna bet?
    I'm glad you have visited someplace nice. The
    demonstration you got on one visit doesn't seem to have
    been nearly as educational as you'd like to think.

    I've never been to the Antarctic either. ;-)
    Floyd L. Davidson, Nov 3, 2007
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