Winter Camera Care

Black Tor, Dartmoor on a winter morning

A short while ago we had the first dusting of winter snow over Dartmoor.  The weather forecast had promised a couple of days of cold temperatures with a strong likelihood of snow.   That was all the justification I needed to throw the tent in the truck and head towards Princetown with little planning.

Those that have camped during an English winter will know damp is the big problem, not the cold.  When its below zero Celsius and dry all moisture is frozen, only when it warms do sleeping bags and clothing start to become uncomfortable.  On this occasion I camped for one night and the temperature was certainly several degrees below zero so damp was just not a problem.  Thank goodness.

When doing this sort of thing I positively avoid exposing camera and lenses to significant shifts in temperature/humidity as that only results in condensation and the likelihood of expensive cleaning or worse, failure.  Like sleeping bags and clothing, electronics generally don’t have a problem with consistent dry cold, but damp is another thing.  So, once my equipment has cooled it stays cool and when not in use it stays tucked-up in a camera bag where its partly insulated from any rapid shift of temperature or humidity.  If that means avoiding a nice warm pub and beer in the evening then so be it… 😉  Two decades ago I was lucky to overwinter in Antarctica at 75 Degrees South, I recall now that when camera equipment was brought into the accommodation from outside it would often be placed in the dry cool store so that it warmed slowly.  Although it was as dry as a desert outside, inside was warm and humid – well when the humidifiers worked!  It was not uncommon to be -25C outside and around +22C inside.  Exposing electronics to such rapid warming/cooling is going to result in tears!

Often the packaging for new electronic equipment contains a little sachet of moisture absorbing silica gel.  For a while I used to collect these and place them in the camera bag on winter trips.  I can imaging they work for small amounts of moisture, but used in a harsh winter environment I’m not so sure…  Admittedly I don’t carry any these days, but they certainly won’t do any harm.  The big rechargeable ones are probably best but they are heavy and I’d not want to lug one or two of those unnecessarily all day.

Batteries are a different story tho – keep them warm.  These days Lithium-Ion is so much better in the cold than earlier technologies but still…batteries don’t like the cold.  At night mine share my sleeping bag and during the day they stay close to my warm body on the inside of a jacket.  Take spares and keep an eye on the charge level as they drain more quickly.  Mind you, if one does drain, it may not be useless.  Warm the battery and it may still have enough charge for a little more shooting…

I guess, I should add that the image above is of sunrise at Black Tor on Dartmoor.  Shame about the clouds, they where just in the wrong place for sunrise 🙁  But still I like the image; I think it successfully communicates a sense of Brrrrgh 🙂

Stay warm!
Andrew

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