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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Shooting In The Extreme Cold

When work comes you take it. That sometimes means working in pretty extreme conditions. In this case that meant temps of -23F, Wind Chill -50F. You have to have the right gear. Oh don't worry the 5D worked fine besides the LCD panel on the camera having a ghost like sluggish response at those temps. Its about very seriously dressing yourself properly. When outside for hours on end in temps like this you can't be getting cold. Your feet and fingers will go first. I used some toe warmers. They are small pads you stuff in your shoes / boots that generate a little bit of heat. The most important thing I can say is that putting on top or bottom helps but isn't ideal. What does work best is using the built in adhesive on them to wrap your toes from top, around the front to the bottom. Once I figured that out my feet where happy all the time. However, these things don't last forever and I found after about 5 or 6 hrs they needed to be replaced, right about lunch time. Its also good practice to change your socks  as well every 6 hrs. I went with thick wool ones and polypropylene liners. That worked well. Keep your socks on an inside pocket to keep them warm if you have to change outside. Changing them means you don't have excess moisture which is the biggest problem to staying warm for extended periods of time in these conditions. 

The wind chill was brutal. When there was no wind it wasn't that bad at all, but the wind can and will find any crack or thin spot and get in. We had some great Polar Fire gear for jackets and bibs. Lots of pockets, water proof and wind proof. They kept us warm. Expensive ? yes of course you knew I was going to say that but compared to being cold, miserable and potentially being frostbit, very cheap. A trip to the ER costs a lot more than the right gear !

Fingers where another story and I never quite got my setup right on this trip. I had some thin glove liners with touch screen tips. They  basically fell apart over several days - the touch tips shredded and one of the seams tore open. The cold came in that hole for sure. Some times they kept me warm enough, especially when having some level of exertion to generate body heat. They did do what I expected - get me at couple minutes of work time when I wanted. The problem was basically that I needed that fine control for working with gear that has some really small knobs. I couldn't work the gear with  the thicker gloves I had. My big gloves where warm, but useless for working the gear. Next time I'm going up one thickness on the thin gloves. I've done the glove liners before in the cold.  Very often I can keep my fingers warm like this, but not this time, especially in the wind. I also tried using some hand warmers but they really didn't do that much for me most of the time unless I put my fingers in direct contact with them. 

Wires all got stiff in the cold. At -20 even some better wires that usually stayed flexible got stiff. Handle with care ! Batteries worked well but the choice was expensive Lithium single use ones for gear. They worked great right until they dropped. However using anything less would of been far far less reliable. In these conditions the last thing you need to worry about is your batteries randomly dropping dead after a couple hours of use. The 5D batteries worked fine. 

So that's why I haven't posted all week, been working in the cold. Now that I'm warm again should be back with some more this week.