Hardware

Lights, camera, action

It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That's fine and dandy, but when you hit high altitudes, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind.


Cold is not your friend
Cold weather is detrimental to your camera. And I'm not just talking about battery life. If you've got one of those fancy SLR auto-focus jobs, then you've got lubricated gears. Think about it. What happens to the oil in your car when the temperature drops? That's right. Its viscosity begins to resemble that of oatmeal. This is not a good thing.

That said, I'll state now that one of the cameras I use on expeditions is a Minolta Maxxum, and I've never had a problem with freezing gears. Here are two tips you can use:
  1. Insulate your camera in your pack when you're transporting it up the slopes. Fleece makes a wonderful camera wrap when it's not on your body.
  2. When you are using it, keep your camera beneath your jacket between shots.

And here's something else. When you first take the camera from its warm nest inside your pack, there's another danger to consider: condensation. Paul Suiter, one of TechRepublic's regular contributors and once full-time photographer, gave me some good advice.

Keep the camera in a plastic freezer bag. Prepare for your shots. Take the camera—plastic baggy and all—and let it acclimate to the cold. Just as my partner, Mike Jackman, experienced with his PalmPilot during the great freezer experiment, condensation is your enemy.

Of course, keep your batteries warm. Don't ashamed to warm those babies up in the ole underarms. The warmer you get them, the more power you'll have to focus and wind the film.

Now, on to the fun stuff. Mike and I are testing a new Sony digital video recorder (Model TRV10 with an optional 64-MB memory stick). Heh, somebody has to do it. I can shoot digital video to tape and send still shots to the memory stick.

The camera comes with a serial connector that allows us to read the memory stick using Sony's proprietary software. In my preliminary tests, I didn't like this setup. First of all, it was slow. Second, the software was pretty lame.

So what's a budding videographer to do? Invest the extra $89 and get the memory reader PCMCIA card for your laptop. It's fast, and you can use much better software to dress up and compress the images.

We'll let you know how it holds up. My biggest concern is the digital tape. Freezing temperatures aren't kind to tape. The positive aspect of this recorder is that the tape is buried pretty deep inside the camera. So we'll see.

Come on IT pros, pop quiz. What's the number one rule when it comes to your maintaining your systems?

Exactly. Backups. I always have a backup plan in the event that everything fails. When it comes to extreme photography, I like to carry a couple of those disposable cameras. They're less than $20 and weigh next to nothing.

Film
I use 100-speed film in the mountains. Kodak Gold works for me—I seem to get brighter blues and better tone. Just my preference though. Oh, one more thing. You know how at high altitudes and on bright, sunny days, you often get a little glare on those pics? Well, invest the few bucks it costs and get yourself a polarizing filter. You won't regret it—I promise.

Okay. I've rambled enough. Here's the Techxpedition's camera and video equipment:
  • Sony TRV10 Digital Video Camera with eight 90-minute digital videotapes and six rechargeable, type "M" batteries (5.5 hours each). (We'll recharge in Kathmandu and possibly Loboche.) A 64-MB memory stick and PCMCIA card for Compaq Armada laptop.
  • Minolta Maxxum with four batteries, a dozen rolls of Kodak and Fuji 100-speed film, four rolls of Kodak 800-speed, and an external flash.
  • Two disposable sport cameras with flash.
  • Kodak Advantix F600 film camera (2x zoom) with two spare batteries and four rolls of 200-speed film.
  • Small, light tripod.

That about covers it. We'll keep you posted on how it goes. Until next time...

Peace.
Want to win a TechRepublic baseball cap? Share your climbing experiences or give the guys encouraging words by posting your comment below, or send us an e-mail. It's that simple.And so you don't miss one step of David and Mike's climb up Island Peak, subscribe to our free TrekMail. Be one of the first 2,000 subscribers to our TrekMail, and you'll get a cool TechRepublic flying disc!

David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor in chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor in chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.

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