Archive for the ‘Equipment and Gear’ Category

Winter photography: My favourite fingerless gloves

Monday, December 6th, 2010

[by Fritz] Shooting in the cold is hard on your hands. Most gloves are thick and bulky and don’t allow the finger dexterity to adjust small dials on camera equipment. And bare hands quickly become useless when holding cold metal equipment in freezing temperatures.

A couple of years ago Andrea Rodger introduced me to her technical glove that quickly became my favourite for cold weather shooting. I was spending a morning at Andrea’s Sportees Activewear in Whitehorse doing a photo shoot profiling successful Yukon businesses. I’d just finished a week of shooting in minus 30 and I was probably whining about my hands. I was pawing through baskets of gloves when Andrea quickly produced a pair of her Michie Dog Musher Gloves and told me I had to try them.

They’re as good as Andrea said they would be. They’re definitely warmer than regular fingerless gloves, and the design provides lots of flexibility for someone who needs to use their fingers. The glove is made of neoprene and has a little pocket over the wrist where you insert a hand warmer, those chemical heat packs sold by Canadian Tire, MEC and others (in cold weather I sometimes tape heat packs to my camera, to batteries etc). The pocket holds the heat pack right over the inside of your wrist, so it warms the blood as it moves into your hand. I use the Sportees gloves in winter, and I also use them for aerial shooting – when the door is off it can be really cold in the back of an airplane or helicopter.

Feeling the shakes over Mount Logan

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

[by Fritz] The thermometer is dipping down, so I’m finding excuses to stay inside and edit photos. I’m working on a collection of images from some collaborative aerial photography shoots I did this summer with Parks Canada. It took a couple of years for the timing and conditions to come together, but in the end we managed to do some pretty extensive shooting of the Kluane icefields.

It’s one thing to get the right weather and light, but it’s another to make a sharp, high-quality photograph while you’re hanging out of a doorless old bush plane over the north face of 19,551-ft Mount Logan. Despite 14 layers of long underwear, I’m still freezing cold. It’s way too early and I’ve probably had too much coffee, and the plane is bucking all over the place. So it’s fair to say that the shakes are a problem. What do you do?

For many years I’ve used an external stabilizing gyroscope to improve sharpness on aerial shoots, but this year I built a new rig that reduces camera shake even more. I use two KenLab KS-8 gyroscopes connected at right angles to each other to stabilize the camera on all three axes, clamped to a Really Right Stuff rail with Arca-Swiss-style clamps to attach the whole beast to the bottom of the camera. It’s crazy heavy, and I should work out more to strengthen my arms, but it significantly reduces camera shake for the first hour or two (before I get tired and my arms give out). Watch for future blog discussions about shooting sharp aerials at night.  

High-ISO nights on the world’s tallest mountain

Monday, July 12th, 2010

[by Fritz] Recently I had the chance to do some night shooting on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea using my new Canon 1D Mark IV. I spent five evenings shooting on the summit in the freezing cold, and like a lot of visitors to Hawaii, I resorted to using socks for mittens. Low-tech gloves, high-tech camera – feels like science fiction. With fast lenses and ISO settings of 6,400 or higher, I can shoot in almost complete darkness and freeze stars as single points just as they look to the human eye – no more long exposures with circular star trails. Canon’s high-ISO camera combined with the new noise reduction in Adobe Photoshop CS5 produces phenomenal results.

The real sci-fi story is at the top of Mauna Kea where there’s over a billion dollars worth of telescopes, radio dishes and lasers searching the sky. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano with an elevation of 13,800 feet, and from the ocean floor it measures 30,000 feet, making it the world’s tallest mountain. In the middle of the Pacific with clear, stable conditions above the clouds, it’s one of the best places in the world for astronomy, which is why 13 international observatories are clustered on the summit. It’s the most outrageous stargazing I’ve ever done.