How to Take Photos in Extreme Cold

March 16, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | 11 Comments | |
How to Take Photos in Extreme Cold Image

On a bitterly cold evening, our Northern Lights tour was arranged. But what, exactly, are the Northern Lights ? The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealise, appear in a clear night sky as swirling rivers of greenish-blue light. They move and dance unpredictably; sometimes barely perceptible, then suddenly growing vivid. In simple terms, the auroras can be explained as an interaction of the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. The phenomenon occurs when the particles collid with atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, transforming kinetic energy into visible light. The most intensive auroras occur at a height of about 100km and can be 10 to 30 km high.

Normally the Northern Lights can be seen virtually every clear night at high latitudes. We had to travel about 45kms on the snow mobiles from the hotel to be able to see the lights. The experience of driving a snow mobile through the wilderness was pretty incredible. I was wearing 4 layers of thermals and fleeces, a jacket and then a snow suit, 3 layers of socks with snow boots and I was still freezing!

Setting up and photographing in complete darkness with gloves on was not ideal. There is no way the autofocus will work on any camera as it is so dark, the focus has to be set on Manual mode and then you set the exposure from experience. I was able to set the shutter at around only 6-8 seconds (10,000 - 12,800 ISO) and capture some amazing shots of the lights. I was pretty lucky that I managed to see them first time around.

How to Take Photos in Extreme Cold

Speaking about the Nikon D3s, the camera handled perfectly in such extreme and cold conditions. I love the high ISO performanace and the 12.1 megapixel resolution is ideal for the kind of work I photograph. The 'D-Movie' feature adds a new dimension of creativity with HD quality video on demand. An external microphone can also be attached for stereo recording. Using shallow depth-of-field provides beautiful blur on the background. All in all, an incredible experience of a lifetime with in my opinion the best DSLR camera around at the moment.


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Entry Tags

how to, wedding, ice, extreme, northern lights, minus, nikon d3s, temperature, freezing, ice hotel, sweden, cold, arctic

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11 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 misha

There’s also an Ice Hotel in Quebec. I used on camera bounce, 2nd curtain, and it all balanced out. Also HDR in PP.

3:52 pm - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#2 Kassil

I would love to have the opportunity to do a shot in an ice hotel.

3:58 pm - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#3 geoff

Loved your article.  Very interesting, but difficult to emulate in Australia!  lol

3:29 am - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#4 steve

What a great venue for wedding photography.

8:20 am - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#5 matt

how did you deal with the problem of your fingers dropping off with frostbite? you can’t work a camera with gloves on, can you?

8:06 pm - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#6 pressac

je suis photographe et j’utilise le Nikon D3S, pouvez vous me donnez votre avis sur mes photos:

8:29 pm - Tuesday, April 6, 2010

#7 Halvat Rakennekynnet

The absolute worst thing you could do would be to keep the camera under your coat and remove it to take photos. You want the camera to stay at outdoor temperature… It’s ok to go from warm to cold, indoors to outdoors, but don’t take the cold camera back indoors or it will condense and end up with frost.

9:33 pm - Saturday, November 13, 2010

#8 RitualPhoto Maui

Very slick! I would love to do a shoot in an ice castle too! Kudos to you looks like fun!!!

3:25 pm - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#9 Elder Scrolls Skyrim

Interesting. I hadnt thought of temperature condititions when it comes to photography. Didnt really know it affects it that much.

10:35 am - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#10 KennyRogers

Taking a photo in an extremely cold weather is really hard. But when you have taken the picture the satisfaction is really great. And then the only thing left to do is to print the picture using a hp laserjet p1005 toner.

4:54 am - Thursday, September 11, 2014

#11 photo booth rental los angeles

I think my fingers would fumble to find the shutter! Haha. great read.

4:07 pm - Monday, August 15, 2016