Winter image
Scott Gilmour, arctic photographer and videographer, and PNY, a provider of quality products for everything in and around the computer, have come together to give advice to photographers, detailing how to shoot great video and photos in extreme cold.

1. Polar environments are very dry and extremely cold. Your equipment will become easily susceptible to any additional moisture in the atmosphere. This will cause problems if you retreat from the cold into a warm environment (e.g. a tent), breathe on your camera, or trap air in it with a filter or a lens cap.

2. Even if the unit is weather sealed, don’t take chances with moisture on your gear. If you are moving from cold to warm environments, you need to:

  • Remove the batteries and card
  • Place the camera in a sealed – preferably watertight – container whilst you are outside.
  • Allow the trapped air within the container to reach the ambient temperature of the warm environment before use. This may take a few hours.
  • Moving a warm camera to a cold environment will not pose problems – the process of sublimation (A solid transitioning to a gas, without first passing the liquid stage) draws moisture away from the camera.

3. If you find moisture in your camera don’t let it freeze! Let it dry or it could damage your equipment long term.

Scott PNY Image4. Keep your batteries and camera warm. If the camera becomes too cold it will not start. Most cameras have an operating limit and you will find that they can and have to exceed these to get the shots you need. Much like your own body, a camera may require additional insulation. There are products available that use hand warmers and synthetic or goose-down covers to protect the camera and maintain a good operating temperature. Batteries are easy to take care of – keep them in a pocket or in your glove to keep them warm.

5. Make sure your memory card doesn’t fail you. PNY’s SDHC Class 10 is tested to -25ºc and has an additional layer of silicone to protect against moisture damage – Scott used it when filming the Yukon race in Canada, and the cards stood up to the test.

“Whilst filming in the Yukon, I was either on the back of a snowmobile or pulling my pulk (a low-slung toboggan for carrying supplies) and had to keep my equipment close to my body to make sure it would work. Some days it would reach as low as -45ºc and despite my best efforts the camera was exposed to too much cold to work correctly,” comments Gilmour.

6. Always carry spares. Your batteries will be operating at 50% in extreme conditions. You’ll need a few extras. Camera cables (between your camera body and microphone if filming) will freeze and snap. Make sure you have a spare back at the tent.

PNY memory card7. Look after yourself. If you need to expose your skin to the cold in order to operate fiddly equipment, only do it very briefly. Every second counts when you’re risking frostbite.

8. If you’re filming, make sure your gear at home can handle the footage when you return. Scott Gilmour says: “As the footage I shot from the DSLR was uncompressed, I was working with some quite sizeable files. Using one of PNY’s Quadro cards, I was able to work with full-resolution uncompressed streams of HD from mixed sources in real-time. The ability to edit and grade a piece without the need to render the footage saves a lot of time and seeing the results instantly is quite gratifying.”

Need more information on choosing the right memory card – have a look at our guide to all digital camera memory cards. Article provided by PNY.

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