Baby, it’s cold outside

Videographers are often at the mercy of Mother Nature.

When it’s raining or snowing, we’ll create a makeshift shield for the camera out of a plastic bag or blanket.

But even if it’s not pouring, extreme temperatures can make our equipment behave strangely.

I accompanied reporter Dana Nichols and photographer Clifford Oto last weekend to Stanislaus National Forest, where the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was cut down and began its journey to Washington, D.C.

You can watch the video here. As you might be able to tell, it was rather cold – down to 12 degrees at one point, according to the harvest crew.

Brrrr. Photo by Clifford Oto.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, so I came with four layers of clothing for me and 3 batteries and 4 tapes for my camera.

Our portable hard drives.

We’ve been working with with portable hard drives for a couple months now. We still record tape as a backup. It is much quicker, however, to import digital files from the hard drives than to ingest footage (which is done in real time – if you shoot an hour, you ingest for an hour).

These hard drives can be rather sensitive, so imagine my relief when mine cooperated in those freezing temperatures!

Batteries, however, were a different story. My fully-charged 10-hour battery lasted about 3 hours in the cold before conking out.  Good thing I had plenty to spare.

It ended up being an amazing experience to watch the tree being cut down. And as for my equipment, I suppose it all goes back to that old Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

From Tara Cuslidge: That said, being prepared doesn’t always prepare you for situations that come your way. A couple years ago, I went with staff writer Zachary K. Johnson to the Greater Stockton Emergency Food Bank for a story about the need for more food during the holiday season.

Frederico Navarro took us into the Food Bank’s extensive, and then empty, walk in freezer.

That’s where I opted to do my interview with him. It was cold, below zero. I was freezing. Every word out of his mouth was accentuated by his very visible breath.

Frederico Navarro at the Greater Stockton Emergency Food Bank.

Navarro was gracious enough to do the interview in the freezing cold, but I quickly noticed my camera was not in such an accommodating state. Here’s a link to the full video.

My zoom slowed down to a molasses-like speed. The battery like blinked (I’d already been shooting for some time). I was only in the walk-in freezer for five to 10 minutes. But cold is cold.

This was before our hard-drive upgrades. So I was worried the tape mechanism would also literally freeze up. That didn’t happen, but my camera was a little frosty when I moved out of the freezer.

It was no worse for the wear after it came back to room temperature.

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