Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ryan Pyle Blog: What Works and What Doesn't


I feel the need to comment on a recently read BLOG. The blog is called Luminous Landscape and it's a site a regularly check in on for gear reviews and such.

The BLOG in question was a review by Photographer Michael Reichmann about a recent trip to Antarctica, and he comments about what worked and what didn't with regards to gear and varying weather conditions.

A few things caught my eye from this blog, first of all I was surprised that of the 77 photographers on this trip some 70% were shooting Canon and half of those had 5D Mark II's. Of the Nikon crowd the D700 was a favorite. The comment I want to make about this blog is not how many photographers there were or to argue about Canon or Nikon; I'm really surprised that so many people brought digital cameras with them to the Antarctic.

Why exactly am I surprised? Well I can't put my finger on it exactly. I suppose it is easiest to say that I don't think I would have gone the digital route due to the sub freezing conditions. Although Michael with his Sony Digital equipment didn't report any problems.

With my documentary work in China I am constantly working outdoors in cold weather. Whether I am documenting Tibetan culture, working on my Black and White project in Xinjiang or even shooting a wind farm just outside of Beijing, I feel like I am constantly shooting in cold weather; and I mean really cold.

Just this past December I was in Baotou, China working on a story about Pollution and it was -26C or worse for four days straight; I was using my Canon EOS 1n film cameras and didn't have a hiccup to mention - only needed faster battery changes. Also, during the first week of February I was out in Xinjiang working on my Black and White project and I was constantly in weather that was -10C or lower, I was even caught in a snow storm in the desert, I had my Leica M6 Range Finders and I was smooth sailing the entire trip.

Getting to the point of the blog, I'm basically saying is I just don't trust the digital equipment in harsh conditions. It's my opinion that they just aren't tough enough to handle the difficult weather, and as Michael points out in his blog the Canon and Nikon digital equipment had a lot of problems (Errors, cracked LCD screens and the like) in weather that didn't seem to get lower than -5C.

There is still a lot of room for analog camera's in this world. Anyone else out there feel similar?


Ryan Pyle
Website: www.ryanpyle.com
Archive: http://archive.ryanpyle.com


  1. I too found it weird that many took the 5d, which isn't known for it's weather capabilities, into a harsh region.

    The only digital camera i'd be happy with is the Canon 1d mkII. Mine survived -26 for 2 days in Chernobyl. I fell down a flight of stairs when they collapsed on me, the body and lens were totally frozen solid and yet it still shot images.

    The Leica (M6 too) also handled the extreme weather, although I went through 2 batteries for the meter, but that's expected.

    5d, ice? hello!

  2. Daniel,

    I really couldn't believe it either. And should the camera's have been okay in that temperature, what would the battery performance have been like and how many batteries would one need for a full 10-12hr day of shooting?

    Film camera's will always have a special place in my heart. I may be a young and relatively new to the industry but I'm an old school photographer at heart.




This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle