Experiments in the cold

Recent days have been the coldest here this winter. This is no surprise, as the second half of January often is the coldest period in the arctic. The sun has returned, but it takes time before this has an effect on the temperature.

Due to the cold (-28°C today) I decided to try something which I have seen before, but never done myself. Maybe you have heard of the effect when you throw boiling water up in the air in extreme cold. It turns instantly to snow. To do this requires no special skills besides having boiling water. The next step is to photograph this, which requires some equipment and good timing.

The setup in my garden was like this: My camera on a tripod, a flash mounted on a softbox with a wireless trigger and my girl friend pressing the shutter button at the right moment.

Fufjilm X-T3 ISO 400 23mm f/1.4 1/2000 sec.

Fufjilm X-T3 ISO 400 23mm f/1.4 1/2000 sec.

You can of course do this without the flash, but in this case it was simply not enough light.

So how do you do this? As long as it is cold enough and you have access to boiling water nearby, I recommend the following:

  • Mount your camera on a tripod. While the shutter speed is so short that you could do this handheld, it just makes it a bit easier if the camera is pointed to the right place beforehand

  • Ask a friend to help you. You could use a remote trigger, but coordinating the trigger while at the same time handling the water will complicate things

  • If there is not enough light, use a flash. It also helps separate your subject from the background. I choose the power of the flash manually, as it gives me more control over the outcome.

  • Short shutter speed: In this case it was 1/2000 sec to freeze the action. In combination with a flash you need a flash that supports HSS - High-Speed sync.

  • Aperture: I chose f/ 1.4 to capture more light. You don’t need such a large aperture, should you have not enough light you can try a higer ISO value.

  • ISO: As low as possible to achieve a fast enough shutter speed.

And most important: Have fun experimenting!

Arctic sunday hike

In January the sun comes back to arctic Norway, but it’s also the coldest time of the year. With temperatures down to -30°C at the coast of Finnmark, it gets even colder once you travel away from the coast.

This year it hasn’t been that cold so far, but last sunday temperatures went down to -25°C, while around -20°C near the sea. Too cold to be outside you may think, but in this beautiful winter landscape and with the special arctic light I really recommend to get outside. Hot chocolote tastes even better when having been in the cold for some time.

Nothing beats warm clothing in -20°C // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/2.8 1/110sec

Nothing beats warm clothing in -20°C // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/2.8 1/110sec

So what’s so special about the light in the far north? Apart from northern lights, you have beautiful lighting the whole winter. Imagine the blue hour, just that this is ‘normal’ daylight. When it’s not cloudy you often get a mixture of blue and pink skies

Arctic skies // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/5.6 1/45 sec

Arctic skies // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/5.6 1/45 sec

There’s one advantage with really cold temperatures - the frost smoke above water creates a unique atmosphere combined with the light. Wouldn’t it be so cold I would be on the water kayaking. But in this case I prefer my snow shoes on land.

Reinøya - “Reindeer Island” // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/8.0 1/6 sec

Reinøya - “Reindeer Island” // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 160 80mm f/8.0 1/6 sec

Even though it’s quite cold outside you get warm while snowshoeing. Moving through the snow can be exhausting, but in this weather I don’t mind as the exercise also keeps me from freezing. We even took a break after some time when it was time for some chocolate - and an image of course!

A break with a view // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 400 80mm f/4.0 1/15 sec

A break with a view // Fujifilm X-T3 ISO 400 80mm f/4.0 1/15 sec

Sure, I would prefer a picnic when it’s warmer. But the experience was worth it, and our huskies enjoy being outside in the snow.

As you may have noticed, all images are taken with an 80mm lens - Fuji’s macro lens. I normally use wide angle for landscapes - but recently I found out that I quite like the look of a telephoto lens for landscape (…and in -20°C with cold fingers you think twice before switching lenses).

See you on the next adventure!

Dave's incredible journey

Last year I met the adventurer David Cornthwaite in Kirkenes, Norway, where he started on a 1000 mile journey along the norwegian coast. I accompanied him for the first couple of kilometres and started my drone to capture som aerial footage.