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I may have an oppty to photograph some time lapses over the next few days. However, the location's temperature will be about 25F / -4C. I'm looking for clever/creative ways to warm my gear while it photographs over a 2 to 4 hour period. Additionally, I fully welcome Rube Goldberg machines or other humorous techniques to keeping my camera warm while it steadfastly clicks away. I will be close to the car I'll be using so, I could use a converter and run some power from the car to a local heater if necessary.

I'm shooting from just before sunset to a bit after sunset. Here is the set up: Sony A7s, Nikon 14-24, eMotimo TB3 Controller, 4 Ft Rhino Slider, Anker battery. This means camera will be moving slightly between shots.

So, I figure someone did this before. I'm sure someone must have wanted to photograph in the cold over an extended period, this can't be the first time. I've seen astrophotographers use cooling boxes for the opposite requirement; for this requirement has someone made a heating box? Or some other clever way to warm up my camera? What about those chemical heating pouches? I'm not opposed to setting something on fire, or perhaps using a hairdryer connected to my car, or perhaps covering my equipment in fur to keep it warm. Or perhaps using the hairdryer connected to my car, to set the fur on fire, hmmm .... that might work. Ok, maybe not. So, what are your ideas ?

UPDATE: This morning, 11/25, I landed on the Frozen Tundra (Go Pack!) and have decided to try simple time lapses with only the camera, no robot or rails during this trip. However, based on the answers so far, I'll be ready to run the camera and the robot (TB3) in the cold during the next trip which is about a month and a half from now.

During that trip, I may try to run power for the TB3 and camera from the car - I'll explore two aspects to ensure this is possible

  1. The first aspect is to determine if the potential locations allow me to park close enough. If not, I need to find an alternative way to power the camera and robot.

  2. The second aspect is to determine if I know enough to preclude electrocuting myself. My wife tells me that's my goal for the experiment- not electrocuting myself. She says that in the same tone that she uses to tell me my personal goal during tax season - which is 'don't go to jail'.

Anyway, keep the answers coming and don't forget about powering the robot (TB3) in the cold weather, too.

UPDATE 2: Dec 3rd. I just returned from my trip and learned a couple of items - Those chemical heat packs list a fairly high average temp and max temp. So much so, that it would be beyond the spec. of the camera. So, I opted to build a temporary heat box around the camera and mount, and use the chemical heat packs just as sources of heat, but not touching the camera. I used a plastic popcorn bucket as the heat box. I looked fairly goofy. However, it kinda' worked, and I'm still working on it - I was able to elevate the temp by about 8F, from 25F to just above freezing ~ 33F.

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    Please do not make up useless tags. The tags ar meant entirely for sorting questions, not adding to them. – damned truths Nov 25 '14 at 6:07
  • Ok - I didn't know that was their use - I was just trying to draw people into the question with a bit of humor - I'll fix now – B Shaw Nov 25 '14 at 6:09
  • My guess is that most people don't look at the tags in most cases, instead reading the title and excerpt. – damned truths Nov 25 '14 at 6:11
  • Ok - I'll know for next time – B Shaw Nov 25 '14 at 6:12
  • They're really helpful in search. The joke tags aren't really harmful there, but... they do kind of feel out of place. – mattdm Nov 25 '14 at 19:42
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-4C for 4 hours, do not worry at all just do it. No warming no external packs. -4 is not that cold but to be extra careful if any of your gear takes AA batteries use Lithium AAs. Your camera's Lithium battery will be fine.

I was out a couple of weekends ago for 6 hours between -10C and -4C and the only thing I tried to keep warm was my fingers. No worries about camera, lenses or batteries. They can take it.

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chemical heating pouches, rubber-banned to the camera, especially the battery department. The big need is to keep the battery warm so it doesn't lose effectiveness in the cold.

Better (and less of a hack) would be to use an external power source like a car battery or some larger power source because you'll likely find that the camera battery will struggle to stay powered through that sequence -- carry multiple batteries if you can.

  • I like it - I was thinking something along these lines. I'm curious to see what others have to say, too – B Shaw Nov 25 '14 at 6:14
  • A lot of pros use the chemical heater packs for this. – Greg Nov 25 '14 at 8:16
  • I use chemical heater packs, as well. In my case, toe warmers; easily available and inexpensive. benmeadows.com/images/xl/… – chili555 Nov 25 '14 at 14:00
  • These are lithium batteries right and it is only -4C. No need for heating at all. – Ian Lelsie Nov 25 '14 at 19:40
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If you have a spare car battery, something like this LiPo battery warmer would be perfect (Assuming you can get one large enough for your kit)

http://www.hobbyking.co.uk/hobbyking/store/__33990__Turnigy_Programmable_Lipo_Battery_Warmer_Bag_12v_DC_.html

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I think the camera itself will enjoy the cold. I recall discussions many years ago concerning using freezing temperatures to get better quality from consumer grade sensors, and the issues to solve involved condensation and batteries. I also recall discussions about winter sports, which is almost the same as your situation.

Let the camera be ambient temperature and well acliamated before focusing. Use a power adaptor rather than the normal battery, run from the car or a battery nearby in a warm container.

  • I agree, the A7s has a cited working temperature from 32-104 °F / 0-40 °C. -4 isn't too far off to worry a lot. – ths Nov 25 '14 at 14:06

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