carstars

Hey, I’m back on the grid for a minute borrowing someone’s wireless…

Right now, it is -1F or -18C for you metric folks. Earlier today, I shot some footage for fun about a half mile off a mountain road in northern New Hampshire. I wanted to see how the Canon 5dmk2 would react to the cold, especially the batteries. I was not surprised when my Vinten Vision 10AS gummed up with the frigid temperature and the Canon batteries only lasted about half the time I was use to.

But this was cold. Some of the coldest temperatures I have ever shot in and with a windchill that ripped right through my heavy clothing. I found that even the most basic functions, like removing a lens cap, was a pain (it froze on the lens). The only thing that would have been worse, would be if weather moved in. But it was a crystal clear day, with a brisk winds. I was thinking how much better things would be if I had ski goggles on!

As many of you know, I am working on an Astro-Timelapse project. Over the last few weeks, I have captured some amazing stuff. In fact, when I watch the ten second or so image sequences, I get so excited that I want to skip sleep all together and set up another remote wilderness timelapse!

One thing to know, shooting astro-timelapses during the winter months of New England is not easy. I have scrapped using stepper motor dollies and panning/tilting motors because it is so painfully difficult. I have mad respect for all of you who brave the cold and do something you love despite feeling very uncomfortable.

Three things I have learned over the past week:

1. Do not use the exhaust from a generator piped toward the camera lens as a heater. This will leave a greasy and oily residue on the outer element and could foul up the lens and the camera! I tried and failed!
I have used a hair dryer set to low mounted on a c stand powered by the genny to warm the lens with excellent results.

2. A great way to acclimatize your camera and lens as you travel to a freezing cold night timelapse location is to mount it to the roof rack as you drive. This method has saved me frost and condensation because the dry cold air rushing past the lens and camera does something to help! Yea…really. It works for me! I use a Bogen magic arm and leave the lens cap on. Of course, safety chain the camera to the roof rack in case the magic arm loosens up! I am not responsible for lost or frozen Canon 5dmk2s…

3. Canon batteries seem to have about half the life when using in temperatures around 0F. Unless you keep them warm, they will not provide power all through the night. Even two of them in the Canon grip. I have started using a small, very quite Honda 1000i generator. Not just to provide heat for the anti-frost/fog lens warmer, but to provide power to the camera.

I feel bad in advance for the poor sucker who will someday become the highest bidder in an eBay auction for my used 5dmk2….

Here are a few screen grabs from my last astro-timelapses. I am going to start placing more recognizable structures in the foreground and avoid using all trees. I plan on shooting at night this weekend at a New Hampshire farm. I have gotten permission from the owners, now I just have to pick a clear night.

jeep
barn
bluestars
trees1
moon
redsky
tree

You can have a little fun with moonlight when the moon is just below the horizon. When you set the Canon 5dmk2’s white balance to 5600K, you get a red glow. If you set the camera to 3200K, you get a blue glow. My naked eye could barely see this light, but what I could see looked like it was blue. See the pictures below.

bluelight
3200K White Balance. This is the color temperature for indoor light or tungsten light. You get a close-to-real-life blue look to the sky.

redlight
5600K White Balance. This looks almost like a sunset. I really like setting the camera to “daylight” color temperature to get this effect.

ufo

Oh and one last thing, I was visited by a UFO while sitting in my car. This is the only picture I could snap off. The ugly and slimy fellow stole my microwave!

The Astro-Timelapse Project will be complete by Fall 2010, perhaps earlier. I am not planning on showing any of the footage until the project is complete. I have a composer creating an original music score for the piece. With all this hype, this thing better be good!

For more about this project: Click here.