Taking style photos in the Arctic in winter is not just a light issue. In the Arctic or at high altitude, temperature and ice fog add additional challenges. Read on to learn more about both challenges, and how to minimize the impacts.
- Dark Days in Alaska Make Photography an Art
- Short Daylight Hours Reduce the Window for Shots
- Why Do Photos Get Blurry in Winter?
- The Camera Gets the Ambient Temperature
- Batteries Suffer from the Cold
- Flashes Produce Odd Shadows in the Dark
- Perception of the Arctic Being a Place without Fashion
- Conclusions on Taking Outfit Photos in the Arctic
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Dark Days in Alaska Make Photography an Art
Taking outfit photos at this time a year at 64.8569° N, 147.8028° W is quite a challenge. Thus, we try to take them inside or in lighted places outside when possible. In these photos, I like the reflection of the outfit in the glass of the storm door. It makes a nice interesting mix with what can be seen in the dark of the front yard.
Note in Fairbanks, you actually don’t need storm doors to protect from the wind, but to have some extra insulation. Without them you would get ice build-up on the inside of the door at 30 below (-34.4°C) or so.
Back to the subject: Why is it so hard to take outside photos in the Arctic?
Short Daylight Hours Reduce the Window for Shots
On December 21, the shortest day of the year, the Sun rises at 10:58 am and sets at 2:39 pm. In total there are 3 hours and 41 minutes of daylight. However, the Sun is not high in the sky. See for instance the photo of the winter solstice in Fairbanks in this post. The Sun rises at 155o and sets at 205o, i.e. approximately between SE and SSE, and SSW and SW, respectively. In other words, the light conditions are not great. On a sunny day – due to the long path that the sun beams take thru the atmosphere – the light is pink in Alaska in winter. Pretty kitschy, right?
Currently, we loose 10 minutes of daylight each day! Living in the dark!
Why Do Photos Get Blurry in Winter?
When the camera was inside in a room, the air in the camera has the same humidity as in the room. Once outside the camera cools fast. The saturation point for water vapor may be reached and the lens inside may get foggy. It’s sort of the opposite to when you enter a store and your glasses get foggy. In the store, the cold lenses cool air close to them which then reaches the saturation point. Once the lenses adjust to store temperature your glasses are clear again.
Facit: You have to wait until the temperature is adjusted before you can take a photo in the Arctic.
The Camera Gets the Ambient Temperature
Another challenge is the zeroth law of thermodynamics. It says that any object strives to achieve be in equilibrium temperature with its environment. Of course, a camera also adjusts to its ambient temperature. This fact has two major impacts. At temperatures below -4F (-20°C) the photographers fingers get pretty cold. The model has to pretend not to feel cold.
Batteries Suffer from the Cold
The time between being able to use the flash takes forever as the battery gets cold and starts freezing. When you enter a room with a camera cooled down to those outside conditions, condensation occurs inside the camera. Sometimes even little ice particles form. The consequence? Guess what? Blurry photos! I can’t believe that some people want that on purpose and even use filters to get the effect! In the sub-Arctic you get it for free when you don’t pay attention.Never let the camera be outside for a long time in Alaska. Click To Tweet
Flashes Produce Odd Shadows in the Dark
The photo series below was taken when the sky still was dark black (see photo below). Not even an aurora threw a little light. The shadows produced by the flash light created interesting shading. I bet it would take me hours to create an effect like that in Photoshop. LOL 😉
Ice Fog Becomes Visible when You Use the Flash Light
That white cloud in the background of the photos below looks impressive. What happened here is that its droplets and ice crystals reflected the light of the flash when we took my outfit photo below. In the second photo, my photographer just hit the button when I was standing in the ice fog. See the High Latitude Style glossary for how ice fog forms.
Perception of the Arctic Being a Place without Fashion
Many people disbelieve that being an Alaskan style blogger is possible temperature and shopping wise. Did they never hear about online stores? Well, you can even buy high-end fashion just here at the Last Frontier when you are lucky. I scored the Gucci scarf in a consignment store for just $20! Pretty lucky! Well, one woman’s trash, is another’s treasure. 😉A statement scarf is always a good idea. #timelessstyle Click To Tweet
Conclusions on Taking Outfit Photos in the Arctic
In summary, some of the great iPhone photo and posing tips that Scott Kelby explained in his book won’t work, because you freeze your boom off when posing takes too long. You have to ensure that the camera is warm enough to function without fog buildup, and plan the poses prior to getting out. See my review of The iPhone Photography Book.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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