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    Just had a question about digital cameras and the extreme cold.  Doing some checking obviously the cold affects cameras and the batteries.  What kind of cameras do most people have on The Ice to get such great pictures?  Or doesn’t it matter?


    Hi Dan,

    Your best bet is to take a spare battery and keep it warm in your parka pocket. When the camera’s battery starts to go dead (and it will, eventually), pop it out and put in the spare. During the summer at McMurdo this is not much of an issue, but in the winter the cold affects cameras much more.

    As far as the type of camera, that’s up to you. IMO, what’s more important is to evaluate your pictures right after you take them. See what works and what doesn’t. Try new techniques until you get the results you want. I constantly play around with exposure because things are so contrasty there.

    Most of all, have fun!



    If I were you I would buy rechargable batteries. If your going to be taking a bunch of photos, and a couple of memory cards.


    Dan, For the most part, if you are happy with your camera at home, you will be happy on the ice. Some people like point and shoot, others like manual. It’s all your preference. The major problem as Glenn said is batteries. Some cameras take AA batteries. If you have one of those, go to Home Depot and buy a couple of 36 pack batteries for 12 dollars. Batteries are not always available on the ice. Rechargeables work as well,  but they tend to go dead fast in cold weather. In that case   bring lots and keep several recharged sets on hand.
    If your camera takes a proprietary battery, the get the most powerful they offer and buy several. You will enjoy not having the batteries run out just as a bunch of penguins go trotting by.
    If you are spending the winter, you will want a camera with an “M” setting or Manual. In order to take aurora photos you will need to force the camera to take a minimum of 8 to 15 seconds of shots with the shutter open. I can show you how to use it once on the ice.


         You make it down to the ice yet? What part of the itinerary are you? Denver, Auckland, side tracked to Sydney or Christchurch? Is it rough leaving Oregon behind for the winter?


    I’ll move this to a new thread.


    I’m an old hat at this rick, so it’s never really rough any more. The itinerary and experiences to date are on the other thread.


    Dan.. after my three seasons on the Ice, and my girlfriends 4 seasons, this is what we have found worked for camera’s.

    I have a 4 y/o Olympus Stylus point and shoot style and a D70 fancy camera. Zondra also used a D70.

    I’m not sure how seriously you are into photography (point n’ shoot memories or professional), so read this with your uses in mind.

    The parts that usually fail are batteries, and the zoom lens motor.
    The D70’s batteries are awesome, and the Olympus did pretty good. Definitely get a back up battery and bring the charger. I recommend the funny lithium ion or such battery that requires the unique charger. Everyone I knew that used regular AA batteries (rechargable or otherwise) fought them constantly. Regardless, bring a charger for whatever rechargables you bring.

    Video mode sucks the batteries fast.

    We found keeping the spare battery tucked deep in your clothes close to your skin preserved its charge. We tucked the camera itself under our Big Red (or other coat) and only brought it out long enough to shoot, and then back in it went. I would also use the toe warmers that had a sticky side to them, and stick them around the battery area of the camera for colder environs, or if it had to be exposed to the direct air for a long time. Try to turn your camera off as soon as you are done shooting, or during long intervals between shots. (On the bad side, if the little lens motor runs ever time you O/I, it increases the chances it will fail, especially when it is super cold.)

    Suggested accesories:

    1) tripod for night/winter shots if you go Winfly/winterover
    2) extra memory card (I recommend going for a big one)
    3) spare battery (as mentioned)
    4) polarized lens (so the pics looks as cool as through your glasses)

    Just my $.02



    One more thing. At Pole, even in the summer, at the Dry Valleys, or early/late season and on long walks in McMurdo your LCD screen will freeze. At first it will begin to ghost as the crystals slowly freeze, but eventually it will stop working. At Pole, that can be as little as a few minutes. As a result, I highly recommend a TTL sight (like on SLRs) or a rangefinder instead of the new “LCD”-only cameras. I bought a Nikon P3 for in-house party pics, but it’s mostly useless outside because it only has LCD sighting.

    And to reiterate, at least for Pole, buy bulk disposable batteries for any gear you need to use outside: cameras, headlamps, etc. Rechargeables are OK for the first few charges and are fine for solely indoor use, but they rapidly lose staying power once exposed to outside temps, even under clothing. I’ve had them konk out in as little as 15 minutes after appearing to be fully charged. It’s oxymoronic that disposables are in fact more friendly to the environment here than rechargeables, since both have to be removed. So getting the ones that last the longest often means getting the disposables.

    Oh … and never change or remove your lens after coming inside until the camera is fully warmed up. You will risk damaging the sensor from condensation and trapped dust particles (McMurdo grit, especially). While I’m on it, don’t change lenses outside in the Dry Valleys — you WILL get dust on the sensors no matter how careful you are. Stick with one lens or take two cameras if you’re lucky enough to go there.



    I had a video camera short out once when I brought it indoors when it was cold. The minute I came in the building water condensed all over the inside and outside of the body.
    A way around is to carry a big ziplock bag. Before you come indoors place the camera in the bag and seal it. Bring the sealed bag indoors and allow the camera to warm up to room temperature. The bag stops room temperature water vapor from reaching the camera.


    Good points on the last couple of posts… I agree. I also learned a couple things myself:)

    One thing I forgot – like Brien said, the LCD screens freeze up in the cold temps (e.g. Pole, Winfly, Winter). For McM on most nicer days you are safe from it freezing with general caution against the cold, but the nifty LCD screen (and looking through the pictures you’ve already taken on the screen) will drain your batteries faster. Use the old school viewfinder. If it has a viewfinder in addition to the LCD, you can usually turn off the LCD function. If it was nice out, I still cheated and used the LCD to make sure my pic turned out ok – I’m not a good enough photographer yet to trust myself:)

    Another thing – you might buy a cheap-o back-up. I know of one photographer (hi Erica!) who had the misfortune of having their camera die over winter.

    Also, get one of those keychain memory sticks (thumb drive, whatever they call them). Go big on memory. I recommend at least 1 GB. That way you can trade pics (and “stuff”) with friends easily.


    Thanks everyone GREAT information before I head to The Ice the end of September.
    Howdy (My nickname)


    I was able to take tons of fotos, and had no problems using a Canon 520 Snapshot.
    I bought this just before I left for these reasons:
    I didn’t have much to spend
    It has a traditional view port and an LCD
         -If the screen whent dead I could still take pics  (screen never whent dead)
    AA battaries
         – Better chance to come accross more of those in a pinch than a unique battary
    Cannon AA rechargable battaries specific for my camara
         -No extra weight and no dead battaries to discard. Longer lasting higher amp
    I had no problems and it was a tough, great camera which I still use.
    P.S. We used to download our pics to the common E-Drive at the station’s public computer lab. At the end of the season, (or durring) you could download the pics you wanted to a DVD. So there was no concern of how to store the pics.

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