Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1997/11/08

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Subject: RE: Snow
From: "Otto J. Anshus" <>
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 11:40:51 +0100

> From:
> Date: Fri, 7 Nov 1997 23:05:14 -0500 (EST)
> Subject: Re: Leica-Users List Digest V1 #738
<snip in message on Antarctic>
> Need sugestions for for lens, other articles for my bag.  I will be 
> primarily Kodachrome 25 and 64.   My primary camera will be R8 but have 
> R's also.
> I have shot very little in snow and would appreciate suggestions for 
> problems.

I have been shooting snow for ages up here north of the arctic circle 
around the city of Tromsoe, Norway at almost 70 degrees north. My 
experience is limited to the M6, the Nikkormat and the Nikon F2A. However, 
my wife is using a N90S without having any problems at all. This can at 
times pose a challenge to my claimed superiority of "must have" mechanical 
cameras that "does not need batteries", and that will "keep on working". 
Somehow, she does not buy it all. I guess she was just lucky getting a well 
functioning N90S. Yes, that's it. Pure luck instead of quality control.

Anyhow, here are some of my observations on snow:

- -I use Velvia and Kodachrome 64. Nowadays I mostly use Kodachrome 64 
because I prefer the way the Kodak labs around here develops and mounts the 
slides compared with non Fuji labs doing Fuji films with Kodak soup and 
test strips.

- -Do not expect to use the same camera outside and then enter a warmer area 
(a room, a car, etc) and continue to use the camera. Condensation will 
cover the camera and when you go back out it will freeze. On the M6 this 
will result in, among other things, that the frame preview will stop 
working (it will start working again when it thaws).

- -When entering a warmer area leave the camera outside or make sure your bag 
is as cold as the camera, put the camea in the bag and let the bag protect 
its contents from warming up too fast. I like well padded backpacks for 
outdoor work in the winter (winter equals meters of snow up here). The 
padding is a good enough isolation against too fast warm ups. And I don't 
have to put the bag down on the snow. In the wind, a bag on snow covered 
ground will get much air carried snow particles from the area just above 
the ground (did this make sense?).

- -I also use zip locked plastic bags both for protection against the weather 
and the heat. When I have to go inside, I put the camera in a large bag and 
zip it. The condensation will mostly stay on the outside of the bag like 
magic. Buy the heavy duty freezer bags. I try to grab some of these every 
time I am in the US and smuggle them back into Norway since I can hardly 
find these bags around here. Perhaps zip lock bags are under US export 
limitation just as cryptography systems are (or used to be)? Well, just a 
weekend thought.

- -I do not recommend keeping the camera under a jacket near your body. This 
can make the camera a few degrees warmer than the air away from your body. 
It just takes a degree or two and the (temporary) damage is done. If you 
have to take pictures both inside and outside close in time to each other, 
you should keep at least one body heated and dedicate it to warm 
environment shooting. Also consider that you may not want to open your 
jacket if it is cold, windy and snowing. At least not too often since there 
seems to be a time threshold to the "open time", and if you go beyond it 
you will pay dearly.

- -Overexpose 1/2-3 steps. Bracket. I find it a challenge to get details in 
snow. But they can be exposed. "Wrong" exposure values will color the snow 
in various ways depending on the time of day. The amazing thing is that 
this can be done without using computers at all.

- -Sleet will hit the lens, and then freeze leaving spots much bigger than 
raindrops and dust. It is visible in the pictures. So protect the lens when 
it sleets and snows. I use the everready case (se below) and zip lock bags. 
I wish the 50/2 front lens cap worked better. Then I could put it back on 
if I needed to. Unfortunately someone at Leica has decided to make it an 
automatic cap that removes itself  when you look at it. This may be 
inspired by the Canon eye control system for autofocus. I have also 
observed that the plastic "spring" in the new 50/2 lenscap seems to get 
brittle in the cold and break. Well, this has only happened to me twice. 
And in all fairness, perhaps the intended use is in a warm budoir and not 
in 2.40 meters of snow. I have read in the M6 literature from Leica that 
they test the body between -20C (-25?) to +60C. However, the lenscaps are 
not mentioned. Perhaps they just forgot. Details, details.

- -There is a need for a "snow shade" for the lenses. The new 90/2 and 50/2 
sun shades are next to worthless when it comes to protecting the front lens 
element from snow and rain. But they do look good.

- -I find that I merge very well with the M6 for outdoor work when it is 
cold. I have been out in the cold for many hours, and the M6 just keeps on 
ticking (Bits and pieces are falling off the body, but this does not really 
interfere with the basic soundness of the concept, the design and most of 
the implementation). I have been out continously for up to 10 days 
(sleeping in both small and large army tents), and all the camera gear was 
kept cold the whole time. I take no special care of the batteries, and they 
seem to last a long time on the M6 (but I always carry 2 sets of spare 
batteries in my pockets (different pockets for redundancy). However, I do 
not like to do battle with the battery cover late in the afternoon at -20 
Celsius (or even -2C), so I try to make sure I have fresh enough batteries 
in the camera to last me at least twice as many hours that I expect to 
actually spend. Perhaps I should grow a large strong nail on one finger 
instead. Instead of adapting technology to humans, perhaps we can go the 
other way.

- -I carry a spare battery cover for the M6. I you really have to change 
batteries, your hands will quickly grow cold and loose sensation. Then you 
will drop the battery cover in the snow, and you will never ever find it 
again. I think this must be the first reported case documenting that matter 
really can disappear leaving no traces. Even if it is not as sensational as 
cold fusion, it will leave you feeling like a cold turkey.

- -I actually like to use the infamous everready case when being out in the 
bush. The advantages include that I can easily protect the lens when moving 
around, and I don't have to open the backpack too often when it is snowing. 
Accumulated snow in the bag will melt when you get inside again. The 
everready case is also extra protection against a too fast warm up when you 
get back inside. If you are inside just 30 minutes or less you can still go 
back out and the camera will probably be cold enough to be used right away. 
The drawbacks to using the everready case are obvious: everybody tells you 
it is a bad idea, so you must decide if you dare to be seen with an 
_expensive_ one marked "Leica".

- -Take care to control where your mouth and nose are pointing. It just takes 
a moments distraction to have a viewfinder or a lens covered with fog from 
your breath. Then it will freeze. My solution is to put my finger directly 
on the viewfinder glass, wait a few seconds and wipe the glass with 
anything soft, cold and dry available. However, I do not do this on a lens 

Good luck with the Antarctic trip. I wish I could gump along.

> clifton