Filming in extreme subzero temperatures

Surprisingly many people have mailed me and asked about filming in extreme subzero temperatures. How did we manage this task in the freezing Dyatlov Pass? Well, there aren’t many smooth solutions out there for the average enthusiasts. I spent a long time trying to find an answer for a convenient method. However, the solution I found worked very well and I can really recommend this for any photographer. Yes, even for serious photographers.

Bulky camera equipment can be really hard to use, such as in the highlands of the Northern Urals. The problem of handling any larger equipment and to carry it around effectively when the temperature drops to minus 35 degrees Celsius, is a nightmare. Ultimately this will lead to a lot of missed filming opportunities. During the really cold days when the temperature fell below 44 degrees Celsius, we still never encountered large problems when using the camera. This is because we used smartphones. In this case an iPhone XS Max. The recent development of smartphones, allowing to film in 4K, opens up for very good results when using the camera in places such as the Dyatlov pass. The reason for this is that you can always have the small camera ready and reachable. It can be kept in an outer pocket without freezing - this by using a heat pack.

Photo taken with iPhone XS Max, minus 38 degrees Celsius. Dyatlov pass

If you use a smaller heat pack, those for hands, it will keep a temperature between 40 and 60 degrees Celsius during all day. Since it is air activated, it starts the warming process as soon as you unzip the pack. The more you keep moving, the more effective. Just make sure to keep the heat pack on the battery side of the phone and with the screen faced inwards. Since it lasts for an entire day, you only need to bring a handful of heat packs for an entire week of filming.

The new iPhone camera is nowadays good enough to even produce film materials for larger productions. Of course they are not comparable to larger professional equipment, but considering how easy they are to handle and to recharge with battery packs, I really think there is not much competition out there for extreme subzero temperatures. Since the heat pack is kept in the same pocket as the phone, you can easily film for some minutes in the temperatures mentioned above. Actually, the first thing to die is the touch screen that eventually becomes unresponsive. But after a minute or two in the pocket – it is ready to go again.

Good Luck!

Richard Holmgren

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Photo taken with iPhone XS Max. Lozva River