Skunkabilly [deleted] 10:41am, 14 January 2009
Confession: other than 8 months in New Mexico and Arizona, I've lived in Southern California my whole life, so I don't really understand how this whole cold and frost thing works.

After Christmas, my roommate and I set out on a northern Arizona and southern Utah camping/hiking trip. Our second destination was Monument Valley. We found the perfect camp spot, here:


and as it was the perfect view, I set up my camera to take star trails while I cowered in my sleeping bag.

Out of the three shots I took, this one turned out the best as a matter of luck; there is only one faint light trail from an airplane passing overhead. The other two were pretty bad.


I usually let my star trail exposures run while I sleep--trip the shutter and go to bed...bag...whatever. The next morning, I knew the sunrise was going to be pretty good:


Unfortunately my D90 was frosted over!!! What the crap is this?


Ahhh, yes all hail Frosty the Nikon!

Surprisingly, even after three half-hour exposures with long exposure NR (effectively recording for three hours, right?) and being left outside in the miserably cold temperatures, the battery still had life in it!


It still fired! I couldn't believe it. I figure my camera was safe enough, but that the battery would be dead. The D200 was a battery hog for sure and I always counted on my battery being dead in the morning. I have give or take 6 EN-EL3e's, since I figure my D200 was going to go through a battery a night if I was to be out taking star trails.

My miserable attempt to defrost the D90 on the Subaru engine:

I brought the camera into the cabin of the car as we shoved off, so the extreme temp change was unavoidable. The frost melted off, but the camera fogged up in the insides and shot, but the AF was down, as there was nothing for it to grab onto other than fog. It cleared after a few hours and I finished the rest of my trip with the D90.

The rest of the trip on Anyway I hope this is of some use and gives you an idea of what the abuse the D90 can put up with. Hopefully I won't rappel into a pool and drown it to death like I did with my D200.
Niko R. 8 years ago
so it really works after that?!
P__W [deleted] 8 years ago
A Great story.
JacobVorpahl 8 years ago
Wow. I thought for sure the end of the story was going be "so now I'm taking my D90 in for repairs" or something. Cool story.

Jacob Vorpahl - OneBrightSpot
Dadooron [deleted] 8 years ago
Not the sort of thing you expect of a consumer DSLR to put up with.

Great story.
fonzie happens to be 8 years ago
Good news. I'm glad my new little D90 can take some abuse....
Rangefindergeneral 8 years ago
I am more impressed that the Subaru engine didn't melt it.
mcarneybsa [deleted] 8 years ago
becareful when you defrost your camera or if you take it in and out of very humid environments. My D50 was out of commission for 3 weeks this summer because of the latter. enough condensation built up in the body to short out most of the electronics - I had to wait for it to dry out completely before it would even take a picture much less auto focus.
It's just Mark PRO 8 years ago
You did that to your camera on purpose??
You oughta be trout-slapped! :-)
aparmley PRO 8 years ago
I'm no scientist but I'm assuming that while your camera was taking an exposure, the sensor was creating heat. As the air temperature drops outside condensation forms on the outside of anything that is warmer than the air that surrounds it. In most parts of the country, that I know of, in the late hours on a clear night, condensation forms on the ground as it releases warmth into the colder air above it. Much like this your camera was releasing heat into the cold air around it and the air temperature dropped below freezing, the dew to turned to frost. I don't believe you would have had this problem if the camera was just sitting out itself; the camera temperature would have adjusted to the surrounding air temperature much faster and no condensation would have been formed as the air temp and camera temp would be identical.

Sucks to learn this lesson with a D90, but I'm glad its still works. Cool story thanks for sharing. Nice images too, checked out the blog and it looked like a really sweet trip.

I run into the fog problem during summer and winter, when its most likely that stepping outside/inside will exposure the camera to a drastic change in temperature/humidity. In the summer, when my camera is indoors in the cool dry air conditioning and I take it outside in the warm humid air, the lens fogs up. In the winter, when I take the camera from outside in the cold to inside in the heat, the lens fogs up again.
Alfredk PRO 8 years ago
Wow, good to know, now I can go snow camping here in Maine without worrying about my D90, what could be better than camping in minus 20 F and taking pictures of snow all around you :)
Shawn Thompson - Lake Superior Photographer Posted 8 years ago. Edited by Shawn Thompson - Lake Superior Photographer (member) 8 years ago
"the extreme temp change was unavoidable."

If you ever do this again, put the camera in a plastic bag before bringing it inside and leave it in the bag until it comes up to room temperature. This will help eliminate condensation.
Living in Northern, MN I shoot Landscapes in frigid temps often.
Mikko Reinikainen Posted 8 years ago. Edited by Mikko Reinikainen (member) 8 years ago
Putting the frosty, ice covered camera in a plastic bag would do no good.

Drying the camera without melting the ice would be the safest alternative. Does anyone know if this can be done? I'm thinking something like putting the camera in sealed box with silica gel packets and keeping the box below freezing point.

Edit: On the other hand, that doesn't look like a lot of ice on the camera. When melted it is only a few splashes of very pure water, nothing that would kill a camera.
simon.hucko 8 years ago
@mikko - sounds like a good plan in theory (have never done anything of the sort). you're going to make sure you have a lot of drying agent if you're sealing the box so that you don't just trap the moisture in the air. might be worth looking into something like drierite if you intend to do this often. 8 years ago
There are dryboxes for sale for people who live in humid environments..
A friend in Thailand has one..

Great story and glad to see it survived! Being from Canada I'm very used to going from -20C to +22C in my home and always bag it before going in if the camera is frozen.. but with frozen dew on it!! ouch!! :)

andrew71ca 8 years ago
Wow, I should stop babying my D300! Great story, thanks for posting!
chramiJi 8 years ago
impressive.. both on the subaru and the camera lol...

after the 6th month of owning my d80, i dont baby it anymore... after all its replaceable... but i feel so bad for my 50m 1.4 haha it seems to have dust or something inside (very hard to see, possibly only with my super bright flashlight shining through it.
I just did a ski op at a Mt in 17F problem with my Canon 50D. Lucky for me the dew point was so low there was no issues.

Did you take the battery out as you thawed it? Looks to have alot of moisture and I would have worried about shorting as it dried.
Fried Toast PRO 8 years ago
It gets humid here in Japan during the summer and I've got dryboxes to cope w/ it. I was going to suggest the same thing as Mikko.

Drybox + silica packs would be what I would've aimed for (hard to do out in the middle o' the desert, tho').
Strobocity [deleted] 8 years ago
I just received my new D90 today, and I sort of freaked out when I saw these pictures. It gave me chills!

I don't plan to do this kind of thing with my new camera. Maybe I'd take more risks with my old D50 though.
Nathan J Shaulis 8 years ago
one thing that will give a camera rig extra time before dew or frost forms is something above it and/or around it to block radiant heat from escaping the body. it won't prevent dew/frost from occurring indefinitely, but it will buy you some time, especially if the "heat blocker" is large and/or efficient. a photographic reflector would do the trick. really anything to block radiant heat from escaping into the clear night sky.
Niko R. 8 years ago
"I don't plan to do this kind of thing with my new camera. Maybe I'd take more risks with my old D50 though."

Don´t go spoiling that D50 now!
Von Wong 8 years ago
rofl thats awesome, love the shots u took btw...nice star trails
David Ceruti 6 years ago
"What the crap is this!"

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