How complicated is it to take photos in extreme cold?
Shooting in the polar regions involves a lot of sacrifice – you will suffer for it. Not much about the experience is equivalent to that of a photographer in more friendly shooting environments.
It can be 40, 50 or even 60 degrees below zero Celsius, but you’re dressed to have a balanced body temperature at full exertion. So as soon as you stop, this great cold comes at you with a vengeance.
Your camera is typically behind you in the sledge, you’re wearing huge mittens, and frost has built up on your facial system. As soon as you take the mittens off, your fingers are going to suffer. Then your body temperature starts to drop when you take off the jacket. But you need do this to access the memory card and batteries, which are typically kept in a pocket under your armpit where they stay warm.
Now you’ve got to use your frozen fingers to open the camera compartments. When you’re finally ready to take the picture, you can’t look through the eyepiece because it will fog up from your body heat. Everything needs to be done with a certain sense of approximation, so knowing your equipment is critical to the end result.
Above and beyond anything else, photography is about freezing one little capsule of time. To get back home and rediscover that experience as a photograph on a screen – or even as a print itself – is an extraordinary privilege.