I covered the World Cup opening of ski jumping, cross-country and nordic combined last weekend in Ruka and thought that I just show a couple of images – as quite often your favorite ones are not the ones which end up on the printed page. Although on this occasion, I have to say my clients (Iltalehti, Aamulehti, Lapinkansa, etc.) did a pretty good job (i.e. their choices agreed with mine ;-)). And I thought I share a couple of simple tips – things you probably do know already – in case you are interested how it is to work in situation like this.
Boy, it was cold. I mean, I’m born and raised in this country, so I’m used to it… but my cameras and equipment is made in Japan (and elsewhere) and that does pose a bit of a challenge. No major equipment failures, but couple of lessons learned and few things one should keep in mind.
First of all: dressing accordingly. Shoes are very important as you end up standing on ice and snow for extended periods; just got me a new pair of arctic boots with detachable felt lining (Sorel) and I was really happy about them. But more important: your fingers. I’ve been trying different combinations during the years and my favorite in this kind of extreme cold (-20° C and below) is to use down mittens with inner thermal lining gloves.
But that is only half of the truth. The most important thing: your way of working and in this case, holding the camera. Do NOT touch it until you have to. When you have to shoot – THEN drop the mittens (and have the idiot leashes attached) – and then immediately afterwards mittens back on. If you make the mistake of holding your camera for 15 minutes in your hands, your fingers get so cold you do not feel a thing – I mean, I remember trying to push the shutter release with my thumb on some occasions, it does get that bad…
Equipment: don’t take it inside and outside all the time. When you have to pop inside for a coffee or toilet, leave your gear outside. At the end of the day when you do have to bring it inside, first put it in the bag. Never, ever come inside and change your lens: you risk having humidity on your rear element, mirror and sensor – and then you are in trouble. Most idiotic thing: go inside with your gear, let it warm enough so that the humidity first forms ice on your lenses then it turns into water – and then go out. You end up having your front lens covered with ice when you’d have to shoot the most important image of the day… and then, in your desperation, you try to wipe the ice off – scratching the front element in the process.
Remotes: I shot twice with remotes – both ski jumping and nordic combined. Hannu Manninen was pretty challenging, as I wanted to have his jump analyzed and I did four different angles. Multimaxes performed decently (fresh batteries), but I lost totally the LC-displays and the cables got über-stiff because of the cold… so the lesson learned is to do all the set up inside prior to coming to the hill.
I typically attach remotes with Manfrotto arms – and I use a model which is hydraulic, as it is the most precise when setting it up. Well, does not work so well in that kind of cold. I think the hydraulic fluid or the metal changes – or what ever – but the result is that it becomes totally unusable. Almost dropped a camera at one point (but, as you probably know: always, always secure your remotes with a security leash).
What was pretty interesting was the fact that WFT2’s on my Canon 1D mrk4’s worked flawlessly – as did the cameras – as long as I had the router in a warm pocket (where I also keep the spare batteries for the cams). The only noticeabe flaw was the rear display of the cameras getting sluggish – it worked but you could see I was pushing the limits. But then again, it was c. -20°C…. It was wonder the LCD was working at all. And what is surprising, I did not have one single battery failure – but I had them fully charged each day.
Did the iPad work in those conditions? I wouldn’t know… as I sure as hell did not want to take it outside to see if the display cracks. One bad thing about using a iPad or even the iPhone (which stays warm as you keep it in your pocket) in this kind of extreme conditions is that you need a bare, warm fingertip to operate it… and you do not always have that… I have tried to answer a call or two swiping the display with my nose…
And why did it take me three days to make this post? Well, I am slowly, slowly getting the feel back to my frozen fingers…. ;-)