Cold Work

It’s getting near to that time when we pick up the first reference to Christmas on the High Street and its reported all over the news. I spotted this the other day: Snowin’ in the Wind? Dylan Christmas album due
Bob Dylan is set to release an album of Christmas songs, including “Here Comes Santa Claus” and the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” according to music websites. Well I guess it will make a great present. That got me thinking of the cold and the I remembered this great post from Al Boardman and to get you in the mood I decided to run it. So if it is warm and sunny when you read this remember Christmas is just around the corner.

al-boardmanHello, my name is Al Boardman, I run a Bristol-based video production company called Snowline Productions. We were kindly asked by Rohan to film the 21 years in the Lakes’ event back in the end of February, an event we were excited about being involved in, particularly as we had flown back into the warmer climes of the UK the evening before the event started, from filming in Norway.

Elliott (our sound-man) and I had spent the previous week shooting a documentary on the Hardangervidda in Norway – Europe’s largest mountain plateau, for the Commonwealth Women’s Antarctic Expedition, an amazing project that will see women from the Commonwealth countries of Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Jamaica and the United Kingdom ski to the South Pole. The team had all met in Norway for the final leg of selection and training in the kind of conditions they are likely to find in Antarctica. Needless to say it was fairly cold. We’re pretty used to working in extreme conditions, we’re well versed at filming whilst dangling off ropes or buried in snow and all have a background in mountaineering so we normally manage. However, filming in these tough conditions brings with it a whole host of issues, ranging from camera condensation, batteries losing power to focus rings jamming.

Extreme cold prevents the chemical reaction required for batteries to work and release power, which can only be remedied by keeping the battery warm, which therefore requires the use of a rotation system with one battery on the camera and another keeping warm inside your jacket. The internal workings of the camera will operate for a few hours down to about -30˚C before the mechanisms controlling the focus and aperture rings stiffen and eventually cease to work at all, the lens regularly freezes over, spindrift gets everywhere and the viewfinder will freeze at about -20˚C making it unusable.

As if that isn’t enough to contend with, the real difficulty lies in physically using the camera in the cold. It’s a creative juggling act between making sure you can operate all the rings and buttons on the camera to achieve the best possible shot, and avoiding getting frostbite as you’ve had to remove your outer gloves in order to do this.

Now take Elliott, our sound-man, who frequently has the unenviable job of trying to record clean sound in a blizzard (don’t get him started on airplane noise either). Elliott’s windjammer (the big fluffy zeppelin at the end of the boom pole, which houses the mic.) will often accrue such a volume of snow and ice that it resembles the coat of an Arctic Fox. His sound-mixer has similar problems to the camera, with the various buttons and knobs requiring regular tweaking, all whilst the warm blood runs from his arms as he holds the boom pole in the air.

So, arriving to a mild, drizzly English Lake District weekend was wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, especially the via ferrata filming, and were blown away by the friendly nature of Rohan’s customers, even when there was a camera pointing at them whilst negotiating awkward, slippy, rock steps 400ft off the ground attached only to a wire!
Al Boardman

Read Laura’s post on Via Ferrata then see the film Via Ferrata filming Sorry No T Shirt!

Al and Elliott also produced the Dunster Video

Rohan Heritage

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