Photography in the cold

Christmas day came with nice weather. Snow had already fallen in the Evje district, and the skiing possibilities were good. I decided to go for my first skiing trip this winter, and also would use the opportunity to test some new photo gear at freezing temperatures. I packed my sledge with the necessary equipment and headed for the Evje district and the hill Himmelsyna (not really a mountain) at 649 m. The temperature was around – 8 degrees C, expected to fall towards the evening. After one and a half hours of skiing I fired up my “primus” camp stove and prepared dinner from freeze-dried ready made camp food. I was not far from the top of Himmelsyna, but some steep hills remained. The sledge felt really heavy trying to pull me backwards and downwards. I finally made it to the top, just in time for the sunset. Unfortunately, dark clouds in the west were preparing to cover the sun before the final sunset. There was only a weak breeze of wind, but my fingers soon got cold trying to set up the tripod and camera. I wanted to try the Sony a7r together with the Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 lens. In particular I wanted to test how many shots the battery of the a7r would be able to give me. It soon became clear that the battery capacity dropped precipitously in this cold. The small Li-ion battery of the a7r is kind of an Achilles heel for this camera, so spare batteries must be brought along. It is a good idea to keep them in your pocket. This will keep them warm and they will last longer. I noticed that the battery icon showed 16 % charge after around 20 shots (started with a battery capacity of about 90 %). After coming home and allowing the battery to reach room temperature, the capacity now increased to 67 %. Thus, in the cold the power is there but the low temperature prevents the full effect of the battery. In the future I will bring with me several replacement batteries, not risking to possess a dead camera when the opportunities come along.

I also wanted to test my Samyang lens  in the cold. For the image shown below I pointed the camera towards the sunset and used some mountain birch trees to represent the foreground. The wind had prepared nice patterns in the snow that would function as perspective lines towards the sun. The aperture setting on this lens is fully manual and I set it to f/5.6 (should have used a smaller aperture to get even greater depth-of-field). I used aperture-priority setting on the camera and let the light-meter determine the shutter speed. The distance was set to 3 m in order to exploit the full range of depth-of-field. The exposure turned out to be OK. The sharpness of the lens is very good in the center but diminishes towards the edges of the image. There is also some vignetting. However, considering the price class of this lens it is really a good performer. The was no problems with the camera or the lens in the cold, apart from the battery issues I have mentioned. All Li-ion batteries lose effect in the cold.

Himmelsyna utsikt vestover 2

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