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Author Topic: high altitude photography  (Read 17282 times)
wmchauncey
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« on: January 07, 2007, 08:39:15 AM »
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Will be in the southern CO Rockies in June at an elevation of 12,000 ft. taking panoramas and wildlife shots.  I expect to be shooting between 11AM-2PM with clear skies and dealing with intense light.  Will be using a Canon Rebel xti with a tripod.  The site is accessible by extreme 4/4 Suburban.  

I could use advice on equipment to take, lenses to rent, etc and advise on technique.   Thanks alot!!!
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2007, 09:54:15 AM »
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You could easily get away with two lenses---the 24-105 IS canon and the 70-200 IS canon (either f4 or f2.Cool.  also a polorizing filter.  this will cover a very side range and the IS will allow you to hand hold if necessary. If you are hiking around the F4 70-200 zoom is lighter than the 2.8 and when I'm at high altitude I count ounces!  I have the f2.8 and wish I had the f4!!  eleanor

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Will be in the southern CO Rockies in June at an elevation of 12,000 ft. taking panoramas and wildlife shots.  I expect to be shooting between 11AM-2PM with clear skies and dealing with intense light.  Will be using a Canon Rebel xti with a tripod.  The site is accessible by extreme 4/4 Suburban. 

I could use advice on equipment to take, lenses to rent, etc and advise on technique.   Thanks alot!!!
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94305\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
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mahleu
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2007, 01:02:23 PM »
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I would go for something wider than the 24-105, maybe the 17-40L or even something like the sigma 15-30.

If you're out in the middle of nowhere, you'll probably want a bunch of memory cards and batteries, and some water. A tripod which allows level panning can also be useful if you're going to stitch panoramas. A UV filter will cut down on haze for landscapes.
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2007, 05:17:07 PM »
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It is a good idea do NOT use HDD album or notebook as photo storage. HDD devices could have some problems on high altitude.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2007, 05:48:32 PM »
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I expect to be shooting between 11AM-2PM with clear skies and dealing with intense light.  Will be using a Canon Rebel xti with a tripod.  The site is accessible by extreme 4/4 Suburban. 

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94305\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Is there any reason that you are only able to shoot 11am till 2pm. It seems unfortunate that you are travelling to such a remote location and not making best use of available sunrise/sunset lighting to get the more dramatic shot - plus making a full day of it would be preferable.

If this is a once in a lifetime opportunity then double up on everything. If you can't double up on camera and lenses then at least double or treble up on batteries and storage. Spread you shots across multiple memory cards in case one fails.

Make sure that you have a plan of what you want to shoot and the type of shots you wish to come back with. Study books, websites and magazines until you can visualise under what conditions, with what equipment and which techniques you need to capture the image. If you have specific questions on how to get an image or type of picture then come back to the forums. Have objectives, keep them simple and plan to achieve them.

Other than the usual make sure you have appropriate clothing, food and water. There is nothing more off putting than being cold, thirsty and hungry when you are trying to get good pictures. Consider a good hat if it is sunny and suncream. These are as essential, or more so, than your camera equipment.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2007, 06:09:15 PM »
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The techniques you typically use at lower altitude will work fine up there as well. 12.000 feet is in fact not all that high all things considered.

Be careful with the usage of PL filter, overdoing it can result in virtually black skies if the air is clear. I typically don't use PL much in Alpine environment unless a particular cloud situation makes it worth having very dark skies. Under-exposed skies are likely to exhibit some form of posterization that is a pain to get rid of.

One thing you should be aware of is that there is good chance of suffering from some sort of altitude sickness if you go high by car, since the rate of climbing is much higher than when hiking. Unless you have a good physical condition (ability to run 30 minutes without feeling a particular exhaustion) and no particular weakness to altitude, you are very likely to feel tired as soon as you walk around a little, especially if you carry gear.

This has also the potential to reduce your mental sharpness a little bit, which can result in some stupid mistakes you would normally not do (like forgetting to double check the focus, or getting some blown highlights).

This will only be worsened if the temperature is below what you are used to at lower altitudes. Taking a warm shoes, a very warm hat and a good glove system (2 layers) are 2 important aspects when shooting in cold weather. Drinking a lot is also important since the air will typically be extremely dry.

If you are not used to shooting under stress, with the duty to succeed and no other chance to get that one shot, you should also anticipate the fact that this stress could reduce your ability to take the right decisions. A bit like that super important exam that you fear.

Considering all these things, my number #1 advice would therefore be to focus on taking a few images well, instead of snapping around like crazy. If you have 2 hours on the spot, I would shoot for something like 20 images at most, but 20 "perfect" images.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Olli Vainio
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2007, 10:40:40 PM »
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It is a good idea do NOT use HDD album or notebook as photo storage. HDD devices could have some problems on high altitude.
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12000ft isn't that much really. People use laptops on airliners all the time with their cabin pressure altitude being 8000ft+. However, if you take HDD too high, the vacuum seal will break of course and at some point cause HDD failure, but that will require much lower pressure than there is at 12000ft.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2007, 10:40:56 PM by Olli Vainio » Logged
feppe
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2007, 11:27:06 PM »
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12000ft isn't that much really. People use laptops on airliners all the time with their cabin pressure altitude being 8000ft+. However, if you take HDD too high, the vacuum seal will break of course and at some point cause HDD failure, but that will require much lower pressure than there is at 12000ft.
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That's not the only potential breakage point at high altitudes, as HDD's air bearings might fail due to low air pressure - ie. not enough air molecules cushioning to keep things from banging together inside the drive.

While I have no experience or knowledge how probable HDD failure is due to this, quick googling claims there can be problems as low as 9,000 feet.
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joedecker
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2007, 04:32:35 PM »
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I expect to be shooting between 11AM-2PM with clear skies and dealing with intense light.  Will be using a Canon Rebel xti with a tripod.

I've shot in the White Mountains in California several times at elevations up to about eleven thousand feet, often with little acclimation from staying at 4,000 feet.  From those shoots I'd make a few suggestions....

1.  Take your time with shots, work as methodically as you can.  I find that the simple number of "mistakes" I make is higher at that altitude--an effect I don't notice even a couple thousand feet lower.  

2.  Polarizers will darken the sky immensely at that altitude, likely more than you'll find natural.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but don't expect that you'll be able to easily judge the strength of that effect while you're up there.

3.  Shadows will be dark, increasing the benefits of using a little fill flash or a reflector in some circumstances.

4.  Don't forget sun protection and water.

Have a great shoot!

--Joe
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Joe Decker
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Olli Vainio
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2007, 09:07:03 PM »
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That's not the only potential breakage point at high altitudes, as HDD's air bearings might fail due to low air pressure - ie. not enough air molecules cushioning to keep things from banging together inside the drive.

While I have no experience or knowledge how probable HDD failure is due to this, quick googling claims there can be problems as low as 9,000 feet.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=96703\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
HDD's are air thight as long as seal doesn't break. So difference in outside air pressure won't affect the inside pressure at all.
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feppe
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2007, 09:25:05 PM »
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HDD's are air thight as long as seal doesn't break. So difference in outside air pressure won't affect the inside pressure at all.
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Hard drives are not airtight.
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BillPelzmann
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« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2007, 07:32:33 PM »
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My laptop would definitely not boot at 14,000 ft., when I desperately needed to download a memory card.  It worked fine, later, at lower elevations, but I didn't try it until I got back below 9,000 ft.

I was worried that an IBM Microdrive would also experience problems, but I risked trashing the card because of a herd of Rocky Mtn Goats, and that was the only card I had left to use.  Fortunately it did not malfunction, but I was probably pushing my luck.  

So, at 12,000 feet, I would play it safe. Have enough solid state memory cards so that you do not need to use any device with a hard drive.

I would agree with the others, shoot earlier or later in the day, if at all possible.
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DaveW
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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2007, 08:09:35 AM »
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Ok - I'm a little confused - is there any danger to the HDD from taking it to high altitude - even if it's never turned on??

I'm off to Kili in October - I was planning on bringing my compact drive to store images the first couple of days then using memory cards exclusively as I got higher up.
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mtselman
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« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2007, 08:57:23 AM »
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Ok - I'm a little confused - is there any danger to the HDD from taking it to high altitude - even if it's never turned on??

I'm off to Kili in October - I was planning on bringing my compact drive to store images the first couple of days then using memory cards exclusively as I got higher up.
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Dave, I do not think it should be a major concern. As I pointed out in some other thread a while back, there are thousands of computers working in internet cafes in cities as high as 12000ft (like Leh in India (Ladakh state), La Paz in Bolivia, etc..) There are hundreds of laptops working in Everest Base Camp at altitude of 5300meters. I trekked with my portable drive up to 4500 meters, took my cameras (Canon 350D and a small digicam) to just above 6000 meters and never had altitude related problems with any of the electronics. A friend of mine had his portable drive with him on Annapurna trek, where you pass over 5300 meters. Everything worked - no problems, including downloading from card to drive at over 4000meters (over 12000feet).

If you are shooting film - a very strong UV filter is a must at altitude. But if shooting digital, that becomes less important (I guess there is less UV sensitivity in digital sensors). Polarizer would turn your skies almost black, but is nice to have for "interesting" clouds.
Another thing to keep in mind is "high altitude usually = cold", so your batteries go fast. I always keep spare batteries somewhere close to the body so that I can swap in warm batteries often.

  --Misha
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2007, 10:17:03 AM »
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Ok - I'm a little confused - is there any danger to the HDD from taking it to high altitude - even if it's never turned on??

Definitely not. The only way altitude can damage a HD is by thinning the cushion of air that keeps the platters and R/W head separated while the drive is running. When the drive is powered off, the heads are parked off of the platters, so storing the drive in a vacuum wouldn't hurt it.
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boku
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2007, 10:32:00 AM »
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I'd like to reinforce the comment about watching use of a polarizer. In the upper altitudes the effect is can overly intense, so consider rolling it off or eliminating usage. Your eye will let you see this.

Also - I have found that the light is decidedly different quality. I have found a legitimate use for a UV filter to deal with the UV intensity.
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Forsh
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« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2007, 05:47:04 AM »
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I have been wanting to get into the air to shoot also, I wish you well on this.
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« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2007, 01:41:12 PM »
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When wieght is paramount it makes even more sense than usual to carry a set of extention tubes and a tele converter (1.4X or 2X...you choose)

Martin.
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tmusante
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« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2007, 08:15:12 PM »
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I'm currently reading Mountain Light by Galen Rowell - highly recomend it! Enjoy your trip.
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danmitch
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« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2007, 09:22:57 PM »
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I backpack to that elevation frequently in the Sierra Nevada. There are no particular issues relative to the gear you use that I can think of - not even the weight of the gear (a concern for me) since you are driving.

As other mentioned, unless your approach is a bit unusual you will likely want a somewhat wide angle lens, especially with the crop sensor Rebel. My typical minimum kit for crop sensor in the mountains is the 17-40 and the 24-105. If you do wildlife stuff you may want somthing longer.

One issue to be aware of is that the light can be quite bright at that elevation, and any snow or other bright surfaces (including clouds) can easily burn out the highlights. Read up on how to deal with this.

Too bad about the time of day issue - that is just about the worst time lighting wise. If there is any way that you can shoot very early or very late in the day you should make every effort to do so.

Dan

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Will be in the southern CO Rockies in June at an elevation of 12,000 ft. taking panoramas and wildlife shots.  I expect to be shooting between 11AM-2PM with clear skies and dealing with intense light.  Will be using a Canon Rebel xti with a tripod.  The site is accessible by extreme 4/4 Suburban. 

I could use advice on equipment to take, lenses to rent, etc and advise on technique.   Thanks alot!!!
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=94305\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
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